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Understanding the Different Types of Breathalyzer Tests in DUI Cases

 Posted on July 31,2018 in DUI

Aurora DUI breathalyzer test defense lawyerEvery so often, when people are hanging out and drinking a few beers, the topic of drunk driving will come up. Such conversations may be filled with misinformation about Illinois laws on driving under the influence. One of the most common debates involves breathalyzer tests--whether or not you can refuse to take them, and what happens if you refuse. This article seeks to clear up some of these questions surrounding breathalyzer tests.

The Roadside Breathalyzer vs. the Police Station Test

Many people are surprised to learn that there are two different types of breathalyzer tests:

  • The preliminary breath test, which is conducted with a portable breath-analysis device at during a traffic stop at roadside.
  • The evidentiary breath test, which is conducted with a stationary machine at a police station.

Note that a person’s blood-alcohol concentration can also be measured by a blood test, but this article will focus strictly on breath testing, since it is the most common method.

The Preliminary Breath Test (PBT)

A portable breathalyzer machine is used by police officers for roadside testing. It is called “preliminary” because it is not considered accurate enough to be used as evidence in court. It merely provides an additional piece of evidence that the officer will use to determine whether there is sufficient cause to arrest you on suspicion of DUI. 

If you blow over the legal limit (that is, a blood-alcohol concentration of .08% or higher) on a roadside test, it is very likely that the police officer will arrest you for DUI and take you to the police station.

You may refuse the portable breathalyzer test. There is no penalty for refusing it. However, you may still be arrested based on other evidence. For example, standardized field sobriety tests—which you are also free to refuse without penalty—are another type of evidence used to support a DUI arrest. 

A police officer may also cite their own observations as evidence that you were driving impaired. Examples of such observational evidence include: driving too slow or too fast, weaving across lanes or crossing the center line, slurred speech, and a strong smell of alcohol. Keep in mind that these observations may be backed up by audio or video recordings from a police body camera or dash cam.

The Evidentiary Breath Test (EBT)

Once you are arrested for DUI, you will be taken to a police station and asked to take an evidentiary breath test. Unlike the PBT and the field sobriety tests, there is a penalty for refusing the EBT. 

If you take the evidentiary breath test and blow over the legal limit (.08% or higher), your driver’s license will automatically be suspended for six months. In Illinois, this is called a statutory summary suspension

If you refuse the EBT, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended for 12 months. Plus, you can still be charged with and convicted of DUI based on the police officer’s observational evidence if it is strong enough.

Trust an Experienced Will County DUI Attorney 

If you have been charged with driving under the influence, seek the advice of an experienced Aurora DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. Even if you blew over the legal limit on a breath test, your conviction is by no means guaranteed. At the Law Office of Patricia Magaña, we will do everything in our power to help you avoid a DUI conviction. However, it is important to contact us quickly. We will need to gather evidence, such as witness statements and police audio and video recordings, which can become more difficult or even impossible to obtain as more time passes. Contact us at 630-448-2001 for a free consultation. Se Habla Español.




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