The Preliminary Alcohol Screening Device (PAS) is a mini breath machine used by some law enforcement officers out in the field to determine if a person they suspect of being under the influence of alcohol is over the legal limit.
Typically, suppose the police smell alcohol on your breath, and you show the objective signs of being under the influence of alcohol. In that case, 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 are not interested in wasting their time and being embarrassed back at the station if your blood alcohol level is under the legal limit. This is why the PAS device is convenient and helpful 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 rely on case law to use the reading against the person arrested for a DUI offense. This is a double-edged sword because the machine itself is subject to attack by experts. Its result can sometimes be unraveled at trial by an adequate cross-examination by a savvy DUI defense attorney.
Challenging PAS Test Results
As indicated above, fortunately, the test itself is fraught with issues, and the machine does not produce an accurate result. The defense will always get experts to attack the PAS result, and even the prosecutor's expert will typically acknowledge that the test is inaccurate.
I can not tell you how often I have seen a massive 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 inaccurate.
Of course, there are some occasions where the PAS result is 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 view specific evidence.
Can You Refuse To Take a PAS Device Test?
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 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 year's license suspension if they do not. In counties like Ventura, the police are driving around with the breath test you must take alongside 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 negatively take that refusal and try and hit you with a refusal. Hence, this is a dangerous proposition, and I always advise you to an 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, layout 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 makes the process that much easier.
Last, I have a goal of making sure that the client understands what they are up against and making the process as smooth and painless as possible. If you have a DUI, you should do it once, do it right and never do it again!