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The Preliminary Alcohol Screening Device (PAS) is a mini breath machine that is used by some law enforcement officers out in the field in order to determine if a person they suspect of being under the influence of alcohol is over the legal limit. Typically, if the police smell alcohol on your breath and you show the objective signs of being under the influence of alcohol, then they can have you blow in the PAS device and see what your reading is before wasting a trip to the police station if you are under the legal limit. The police definitely are not interested in wasting their time and being embarrassed back at the station if you blood alcohol level is under the legal limit. This is why the PAS device is such a convenient and helpful tool for them.
The PAS test has been around for many years and its usefulness to law enforcement as a tool to arrest people and prosecute them for a DUI has grown / evolved over the years. In the past, the police / prosecutors could use the PAS results to show that you had alcohol in your system versus actually trying to use the result itself to convict you of a DUI. Now the prosecutors are relying on case law in order to actually use the reading against the person who is arrested for a dui offense. This is a double edged sword for them because the machine itself is subject to attack by experts and its result can sometimes be unraveled at trial by an effective cross examination by a savvy DUI defense attorney.
As indicated above, fortunately, the test itself is fraught with issues and the machine simply does not produce an accurate result. The defense will always be able to get experts to attack the PAS result and even the prosecutors own expert will typically acknowledge that the test is not very accurate. I can not tell you how many times I have seen a huge disparity between the PAS result and the breath test back at the station or the blood test. Hence, the defense will always have a strong argument with the prosecutor and judge that their client’s PAS result is not accurate. Of course there are some occasions where the PAS result is actually helpful to the client and the defense is arguing for its admission and accuracy. It is all in what position you sit that determines how you will view certain evidence.
Drivers in Los Angeles can refuse to blow into the PAS device. They can also refuse to take the field sobriety tests. If you do this, you will make the police angry and they will figure out whatever they can possibly do to arrest you and make it stick. Further, if a person suspected of being dui is asked to take a breath test at the police station, they must take it or risk a refusal.
I always advise my clients to take the test because I am concerned that they will end up with a refusal and a years license suspension if they do not. In counties like Ventura the police are actually driving around with the breath test you must take in side their police units. So even though you can technically refuse to take the PAS test, beware that the police are not your friend and can sometimes take that refusal in a negative way and try and hit you with a refusal. Hence, this is a dangerous proposition and I always advise to error on taking the test, so you do not end up losing your license for a year.
When it comes to DUI defense, I always like to get the client into the office from the beginning and lay out all of the details related to their case and figure out a game plan that works for them and their scenario. Once you know what you are facing and what you can do to help your situation, I have noticed that you regain a sense of control and peace of mind back and it just make the process that much easier.
Last, I have a goal of making sure that the client understands what they are up against and trying to make the process as smooth and painless as possible. I believe if you have a DUI you should do it once, do it right and never do it again!