Understanding DUI Arrests and Breath Tests in Florida
When you have been pulled over and are suspected of drunk driving, you could be asked to provide a breath sample. Misconceptions exist about what your rights are and what these types of tests are. Misunderstandings can lead to more problems, especially if you are facing DUI charges in Florida
At Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, our DUI defense lawyer in Tampa helps clients understand all aspects of their drunk driving case. We believe informed clients make better decisions about their DUI case. If you have questions or want to speak to a criminal defense lawyer in Florida, call us at 813-320-7500 to schedule a Free.
What Are Breath Tests?
Police officers use breath tests in roadside testing and following arrests to help determine whether an alleged drunk driver was under the influence of alcohol while operating a vehicle. These tests can be used for operators of cars and trucks as well as operators of motorcycles, boats, and other vehicles as defined by their respective state.
There are two different types of breath tests: the preliminary breath test (PBT) (also known as preliminary alcohol screenings) and the breathalyzer. Both "types" are often simply called "breath tests," and that's where the confusion comes in. By referring to both as breath tests, people assume they are the same thing, but they are not. Each is administered for different reasons and purposes.
Preliminary Breath Tests
A preliminary breath test or alcohol screening is a breath alcohol test conducted using a portable breath machine in the field, meaning on the side of the road during a traffic stop or DUI investigation. The PBT measures a person's breath alcohol content (BrAC). Portable breath test results are almost always inadmissible in court because they are unreliable. You would want to speak to a drunk driving attorney, however, to make sure what your specific state law says about PBT results and admissibility.
PBTs are administered when a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe you are unlawfully intoxicated. Maybe your speech was slurred or your eyes were bloodshot, and so the officer asks to take a breath sample. If you fail the PBT, that could be enough probable cause to arrest you for a drunk driving offense. A PBT result can also be used in conjunction with a failed field sobriety test as sufficient probable cause to arrest you.
After an arrest for a drunk driving offense, you will have to take another test. Typically, this is a chemical test using a breathalyzer. The breathalyzer is not a portable machine and produces results that are more accurate and can be admitted into court as evidence against you. Approved breathalyzer machines are subject to calibration requirements established by state or federal law.
Before you provide a breath sample via a breathalyzer, the officer should have read the Miranda warning to you. Miranda warnings advise you of your rights. If this warning was not provided to you prior to a breathalyzer test, your constitutional rights may have been violated.
Do I Have a Right to Refuse a Breath Test in Tampa?
Whether you are in Tampa or anywhere else in Florida, you can refuse a breath test in either situation. Breath tests using portable machines in the field are typically voluntary while tests used at the police station while in police custody are not voluntary. You can, however, still refuse either one.
Keep in mind, though, that you should be ready for consequences stemming from the refusal. Immediate consequences include administrative penalties while long-term consequences are those that may result in a criminal conviction.
All states have their own variation of implied consent laws. These laws basically say that you implicitly agree to obey the rules of the road when you get a driver's license. As such, you also implicitly agree to any chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine tests) in exchange for the privilege of operating a vehicle in the state. If you refuse, the state's agency for motor vehicles can impose an automatic license suspension and fines against you. You do not have to be charged and convicted of a drunk driving offense to have your license suspended -- you just need to refuse a breath test.
What's more, in some jurisdictions, your refusal may be used against you in court as evidence that you were drunk driving. If you are convicted, your sentence could include jail time.
Further, if you refuse, the officer may request a warrant to obtain a blood sample. Blood tests are much more reliable and accurate.
If you were arrested in Tampa, you should speak to a drunk driving defense lawyer who handles both administrative and criminal DUI cases. Administratively, you can appeal an automatic license suspension if, for example, the police failed to warn you of the consequences. Criminally, you can fight DUI-related charges and be successful.
Common Problems with the Breath Tests in Florida
Breath tests using portable machines are known to be unreliable, and that's why they are typically not admissible in court. Breath tests using breathalyzers at the police station, however, are admissible. They, too, can also be unreliable and become inadmissible under certain situations or circumstances.
Problems with breathalyzers can be categorized as those resulting from the testing device or machine, the individual operating the device, or the test sample.
Problems with the Breathalyzer Device
- Improper calibration
- Incorrect chemical solutions
- Inappropriate modification
- Faulty programming
- Broken or otherwise not maintained properly
Issues with the Administration of the Test
- Failure to read Miranda Warnings
- Improper instructions or methodology
- Failure to follow testing protocols
- Testing performed by an untrained person
Causes of Improper Breathalyzer Test Readings
- Pre-existing conditions or other medical conditions suffered by the test taker
- Medications, foods, or drinks
- Residual alcohol from the test taker's mouth
- Certain diets, like Keto
Breath tests can be challenged. A criminal defense lawyer can file motions to suppress or exclude the results. Sometimes, if successful, this could result in dismissal of the charges or an acquittal.
Five Ways We Challenge DUI Breath Tests in Tampa
A breath test is often a substantial part of the prosecution's case involving DUI offenses. For that reason, it is essential to ensure that a breath test was performed correctly and the results are accurate.DUI defense attorneys who have been well trained and have experience in these cases can identify a problem with a breath test and take proper action to suppress it as evidence.
At Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, we can take any of the following actions, depending on the specific facts and circumstances of your case:
- Attack the reliability of the breath test. Many reasons exist why we may not be able to rely on the results of a breath test, like a faulty machine, improper administration, or health issues with the test taker.
- Prove the breath device was not properly calibrated. Each state has its respective laws on calibration, but it usually involves a certified forensic analyst and verification of the machine's accuracy.
- Prove device was not properly maintained. Typically, the date and time of repairs and maintenance, as well as the nature and extent of and who performed the maintenance and repairs must be logged.
- Prove there was a lack of training or an operator's error. Police must be trained in order to conduct breath tests. An untrained or uncertified police officer may not properly administer the test.
- Prove records were not properly maintained. Records should be kept to show proper calibration and maintenance, and failure to keep those records updated can be used to prove the device was not properly calibrated or maintained as the law requires.
During the discovery phase of your criminal case, we will obtain the information and evidence we need to support arguments against the breath test's admissibility.
Contact a DUI Defense Lawyer in Tampa Today
You can have your day in court to challenge DUI charges regardless if you took and failed a breath test or refused one. With the right DUI defense lawyer in Tampa, you can be successful. Contact Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC today by calling us at 813-320-7500 or filling out an online form to schedule a Free. We will review your case and discuss your best legal options.
You may be requested to submit a breath sample if you have been pulled over and are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. Many people have the wrong idea about their rights and what these different kinds of exams entail. Misunderstandings might result in additional complications, which is especially problematic if you face allegations of DUI in Florida.
Our DUI defense attorney in Tampa at Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, helps clients comprehend all facets of their drunk driving case to ensure the best possible outcome. Customers who are more informed about their DUI situation make better decisions. Call our office at (813) 320-7500 to schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Florida if you have any questions or would like to speak with one.
Tests Done on Breath Are Called What?
During sobriety checks conducted on the side of the road and after an arrest, police officers utilize breathalyzers to assess whether or not a suspected drunk driver was, in fact, under the influence of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle. According to the standards established by each state, these tests can be administered to people who operate automobiles and trucks, as well as people who operate motorbikes, boats, and other vehicles.
There are two distinct kinds of breath testing: the preliminary breath test (PBT), often called initial alcohol screening, and the breathalyzer. Both of these tests include blowing into a tube. The fact that both "categories" are frequently referred to as simply "breath tests" contributes to the confusion in this area. People mistakenly assume they are the same thing because both are referred to as breath tests, but this is not the case. Several considerations and goals underlie the application of each method.
Initial Examinations Through Breath Testing
A preliminary breath test, also known as an alcohol screening, is a breath alcohol test that is administered in the field using a portable breath machine during a traffic stop or DUI investigation. This type of test is also referred to as an initial breath test. The PBT test determines how much alcohol is in a person's breath (BrAC). Because of their lack of reliability, the results of portable breath tests are practically never accepted in legal proceedings. Therefore, you should discuss the matter with a lawyer specializing in drunk driving law to find out what the laws of your state say concerning the admissibility of PBT findings.
PBTs are given to you if a police officer has probable cause to think that you violate the law due to your level of intoxication. Perhaps the officer noticed that your eyes were bloodshot or that your speech was slurred, so they requested a breath sample from you. If you fail the PBT, law enforcement may have sufficient reasonable cause to place you under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. In addition, if you fail a field sobriety test, the results of a PBT might be utilized in conjunction with that to provide sufficient probable cause to arrest you.
You must take a new test if you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. In most cases, a breathalyzer will be used to do this chemical test. The breathalyzer is not a portable machine; as a result, it generates more accurate results, which can be used as evidence against you in court. Breathalyzers that have been approved must comply with the calibration standards set by either state or federal legislation.
The officer should have provided the Miranda warning before you were asked to give a breath sample to be analyzed by a breathalyzer. The Miranda rights explain your legal rights to you. Your constitutional rights might have been infringed if you were not presented with this warning before a breathalyzer test.
In Tampa, do I have the legal right to refuse to take a breath test?
You are within your rights to refuse to submit to a breath test in any circumstance, regardless of whether you are in Tampa or elsewhere in Florida. In most cases, blowing into a portable breathalyzer in the field is voluntary, whereas blowing into a stationary machine at the police station or while in police custody is not voluntary. But you still have the option to decline either option.
Yet, you should keep in mind that you should be prepared for the consequences that will result from the refusal. The imposition of administrative fines falls under the category of immediate repercussions, but the possibility of a conviction for a criminal offense falls under the category of long-term effects.
Every state has its version of implied consent laws, which might vary significantly. When you receive a driver's license, according to these laws, you agree with the government that you will abide by the rules of the road. In light of this, if you want the privilege of driving a vehicle in the state, you must agree to submit to any chemical testing that may be administered, including tests of your breath, blood, or urine. If you refuse, the state body in charge of motor vehicles may automatically suspend your driver's license and impose fines against you. It is unnecessary to be charged with and convicted of a drunk driving conviction to have your license suspended for driving while intoxicated; all that is required is that you refuse to take a breath test.
In addition, the refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test can be used as proof that you were driving under the influence of alcohol in some jurisdictions. If you are found guilty, you may have to serve some time in jail as part of your sentence.
If you refuse, the officer may request a warrant to acquire a blood sample from you. The reliability and precision of blood tests are significantly higher.
Suppose you were arrested for driving under the influence in Tampa. In that case, you should discuss your case with a DUI defense attorney experienced in administrative and criminal DUI matters. An automatic license suspension might be appealed through the administrative process if, for instance, the police failed to warn you of the consequences of the suspension. You can successfully defend yourself against criminal charges related to DUI.
Issues That Often Occur With Breath Testing in the State of Florida
Because of their well-established reputation for unreliability, breath tests conducted with portable equipment are routinely excluded as evidence in legal proceedings. Nonetheless, breath tests conducted at the police station employing breathalyzers are allowed to be considered valid evidence. They, too, have the potential to be unreliable and, as a result, become unacceptable in specific settings or conditions.
Issues with breathalyzers can be broken down into three categories: those caused by the testing device or machine itself, the person using the instrument, or the sample being tested.
- There Have Been Issues with the Breathalyzer Device
- Incorrect calibration
- Chemical solutions that are not proper
- Improper modification
- Erroneous code that is either broken or in some other way not maintained correctly
- There were problems with the way the test was administered.
- The failure to read the Miranda warnings Warnings
- Instructions or procedures that need to be corrected.
- Failing to follow the established procedures for testing
- Testing carried out by an individual with no prior training
- Reasons for Inaccurate Results Produced by Breathalyzers
- Pre-existing conditions, as well as any other medical issues that the person taking the test may be suffering from
- Medicines, meals, or beverages; all of the above
- Alcohol that has been swallowed by the person taking the test.
- Some diets, including Keto
Challenges can be made to breath testing. Motions to suppress or exclude the results can be filed by a criminal defense attorney if necessary. Sometimes, if this strategy is successful, the charges against the defendant will be dropped, and the defendant will be found not guilty.
Five Different Ways That We Contest Breath Testing for DUI in Tampa
In driving under the influence (DUI) offenses, a breath test is sometimes a significant component of the prosecution's case. Due to this fact, it is necessary to ensure that a breath test is carried out appropriately and that the results are reliable. DUI defense attorneys who have received extensive training and have experience representing clients in similar instances can recognize issues with a breath test and take the appropriate steps to prevent it from being used as evidence.
At Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, we can adopt any one of the following courses of action in relation to your case based on the particular facts and circumstances involved:
- Attempts should be made to discredit the reliability of the breath test. We may not be able to depend on the findings of a breath test for various reasons. These reasons include a defective machine, inappropriate administration, or health difficulties with the person taking the test.
- You need to demonstrate that the breathalyzer was not calibrated correctly. Calibration is governed by rules that vary from state to state. However, in most cases, it requires the services of a qualified forensic analyst and the examination of the machine's precision.
- Show that the device was not maintained appropriately. In most cases, it is necessary to keep a record of the day and time of maintenance and repairs, the kind of work done, how extensive it was, and the people responsible for carrying it out.
- Show that there was either insufficient training or a mistake made by an operator. For breath tests to be administered by the police, officers need to undergo training. It is possible that an inexperienced or uncertified police officer will need to give the test correctly.
- Show that the records were not preserved appropriately. It is essential to preserve records to demonstrate that the device has been properly calibrated and maintained. If these documents are kept up to date, they can be used as evidence that the equipment needs to be properly calibrated or maintained as required by the law.
We will collect the information and evidence required to support arguments regarding the admissibility of the breath test during the discovery phase of your criminal case. This case phase takes place when you are charged with a crime.
Get in Touch With a Tampa DUI Defense Lawyer Right Now
Whether you chose to take the breath test and then failed it or whether you chose not to take the test at all, you have the right to contest the DUI accusations against you in court. You can beat your DUI charge in Tampa if you choose the correct defense attorney. Get in touch with Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, as soon as possible by calling 813-320-7500 or using the online form to set up a free consultation. We will evaluate your situation and discuss the most effective legal strategies available.
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