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Can You Challenge DUI Breathalyzer Results?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | May 18, 2017

In Los Angeles County, thousands of DUI cases are filed every year. In deciding a DUI case, one of the most significant factors that prosecutors, judges, and juries look at is the person's breath results were after their arrest.

There are many ways to challenge the breath results, depending on the facts of your particular case. Your breath results are the starting point in all DUI cases because they determine the seriousness of the issue and how dangerous the prosecutor and judge view you.

First and foremost, it is universally accepted by all experts who testify in DUI cases that the breath machine that is used by the police is not one hundred percent accurate. The devices used across Los Angeles in DUI cases have a .02 error rate. And, in a close case, the defense can utilize this to either win the case or negotiate a more favorable deal for our client.

Factors for Best Chance of Success

Further, in my experience, the cases that have the best chance of success are those where the reading is close to the legal limit and the client has passed some field sobriety tests.

The cases where the person was way over the legal limit have less chance for success because the breath machine does not have that high error rate. The people in this category usually have other signs that they were too intoxicated to drive.

Another area of attack, when it comes to breathing results, relates to when the breath was taken, about when the defendant was seen driving the subject's motor vehicle. The key to remember here is that it is not what the person's blood-alcohol level was at the test that matters.

The person's blood-alcohol level was at the time of driving that is relevant for finding someone guilty of a DUI.

Hence, unless a potential expert can extrapolate backward from taking the person's breath to the time the person was driving, the prosecution's case is dead in the water. The further away from the time of driving that the breath is taken, the more difficult it will be to figure out what the person's blood-alcohol level was at the time of going.

Figuring out when a person was driving a car in a DUI case is a common issue that comes up all the time. The more difficult it is for the prosecutors to prove when the subject defendant was driving, the easier the case is to be negotiated or dismissed outright.

DUI Defense Strategy

The police know that one of the critical jobs in a DUI case was pinpointing when the person was driving the car. The types of strategies I see them employing to establish the time of the driving are 1) Asking the person outright when they were driving; 2) They will ask witnesses to figure out when the person was driving (this is especially applicable in an accident-related DUI case, and 3) They will also look at the circumstances surrounding them coming into contact with the person to establish the time of driving.

Breath results related to DUI cases in Los Angeles are certainly not an exact science and are subject to attack by savvy DUI defense attorneys. However, these breath results are relied upon by prosecutors, judges, and even juries to convict thousands of people each year for driving under the influence of alcohol-related offenses. The best way to test the breath results is to make sure that you have a lawyer by your side at all times!

Reviewing Your Drunk Driving Case

One thing that I will do with the client, once we know the breath result, is to ask them questions about the night of their arrest that will give me an indication as to what their blood alcohol level was, based on their height and weight for example.

The first questions relate to what they drank and how much. Another area that makes sense to inquire about is what food they ate within a few hours of drinking alcohol and driving. Of course, the drinking and driving time are necessary pieces of the puzzle to quantify where their blood alcohol level should be adequate.

One critical piece of information we usually miss in calculating what a particular person's blood alcohol level should be at the time of driving relates to how the person's body processes alcohol. Different people process alcohol differently, and many other factors can influence this calculation. This is where an expert on the defense side can come in handy.

As you can see from the above, many different issues influence a person's blood-alcohol level when they decide to operate a motor vehicle. Some of this is a guessing game on the part of so-called experts.

While other aspects of the testing law enforcement officers conduct on people they arrest for DUI cases are based on sound common sense and science, there are always two sides to an argument.

The key for you is to determine if you will come out on the winning end of the argument. If you are, then it may be time to go to trial. If, on the other hand, you are going to lose the case based on available information, then it is time for your criminal defense attorney to negotiate on your behalf.

Contact our Firm for Help

The best way to make these critical determinations is to sit down with someone who has been down the road you are about to travel and knows how to make the right decisions for their clients.

When I meet with clients for the first time, I aim to get everything out on the table and make sure that when we leave the meeting, we have a plan in place moving forward, based on the information we have and my experience of handling thousands of cases.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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