In California, if you are stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) you will likely be asked to submit to a blood test or a breathalyzer test. These tests are used to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) to establish whether or not you have exceeded the legal limit of 0.08%. However, breathalyzer tests are not without their faults, so even if you exceed 0.08% on the test results, it does not necessarily mean you are guilty.
An experienced DUI attorney may be able to prove that the DUI test(s) that were administered were not done so properly. In fact, if an attorney is able to determine that this was indeed the case the charges against you may be reduced or dropped entirely. A knowledgable DUI defense attorney may be able to demonstrate that a breath test was not administered properly by establishing that the required 15-minute observation period was not adhered to.
What is the 15-minute observation period?
At this point you are probably wondering what the 15-minute observation period is and how it relates to breathalyzer tests, so let’s discuss that. In California, the law requires that an officer administering a DUI breathalyzer test must continuously observe the suspected drunk driver for a minimum of 15 minutes without interruption. In fact, the breathalyzer test should not be administered before this phase is complete. If an officer fails to properly observe the suspect prior to administering a breathalyzer test a DUI defense attorney may be able to attack the test results as being illegally obtained or possibly inadmissible as evidence. This, as a result, challenges the credibility of the arresting officer and calls into question whether any other tests or protocol were improper as well.
Part of observing a DUI suspect for 15 minutes is to ensure that before administering a DUI breath test there was no burping, vomiting, eating, drinking, or any other behavior that may affect the test results. However, it is important to understand that failure to observe the required 15 minutes doesn’t necessarily prevent the test results from being used as evidence at trial, however, as mentioned above it could help a defense attorney challenge the accuracy of the test results.
Another important aspect to keep in mind is that the courts can be pretty liberal in how they interpret the 15 minute observation period. For example, between the time a police officer first stopped you, asked you questions, administered tests, arrested you, and drove you to jail it is likely that 15 minutes has gone by. This makes it possible for the arresting officer to say that they continuously observed you for 15 minutes and this explanation alone may be enough to satisfy the court.
What to do if you feel a 15-minute observation period was not followed during a DUI arrest
If you have been arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence and you feel that the arresting officer did not adhere to the 15-minute observation period prior to administering a breathalyzer test it is in your best interest to contact a DUI defense attorney immediately. Most DUI attorneys offer a free initial consultation to confidentially discuss the details of your case and can help inform you of the legal defenses you may have available to you. Remember, failing a breathalyzer test does not always mean you are guilty, you may have options.
If you would like to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case, contact us today at (559) 222-5800.