You are facing harsh penalties, such as a possible jail sentence, fines, driver’s license suspension, and a permanent criminal record if convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in Fairfax or elsewhere in Virginia. However, it is crucial to remember that you may have strong defenses even if you believe you are guilty of DUI. One defense that may help is to challenge the breathalyzer test results. If successful, this defense may result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
What Is a Breathalyzer Test?
A breathalyzer is a device that measures a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). They come in two varieties: handheld devices and larger, fixed devices installed at the jail or elsewhere. The police use each device, but at different times, when they suspect a driver of being intoxicated. A person breathes into the breathalyzer, and it measures the amount of ethanol (i.e. alcohol) on that person's breath.
How to Challenge the Results of a Breathalyzer Test
There are a number of ways that a breathalyzer test can be challenged. The ones that will work for you will depend on the facts of your case. You will need the help of an experienced DUI attorney to identify the issues that apply to your circumstances. Here are some common ways that the test results can be discredited:
- Not reliable. Depending on the type of device used and other factors, you may be able to challenge the reliability of the test results. For example, certain alcohol-containing substances in the mouth can trigger a false positive result. Toothache medicines, mouthwash, breath fresheners, and vomit are some substances that can skew test results. You may need the assistance of an expert witness to mount this defense.
- Not calibrated. All breathalyzers must be calibrated periodically to make sure they are working correctly. If the prosecution cannot lay a foundation for the accuracy of the device, the test results may not be valid or admissible at trial.
- Improper administration. A breathalyzer test must be administered according to manufacturer specifications and using other proper procedures. These include collecting the air sample from deep lung air, waiting no less than 10 minutes from the last burp, hiccup, or other regurgitation before administering the test, and ensuring that nothing else could possibly skew the results, such as drinking alcohol or eating food after the arrest. A skilled lawyer may be able to show that your test was not administered properly or that the officer lacked the training necessary to correctly give you the test and have the results excluded.
- Unlawful search. The results of any breathalyzer may be inadmissible—even if the test was done correctly and the device was properly calibrated—if the officer did not have probable cause to administer it. First, he must have had reasonable suspicion to stop you. This can include weaving, erratic driving, speeding, and other traffic law violations. To require a suspect to use the stationhouse breathalyzer, the police also had to arrest the individual for a DUI-related offense.
- No testimony. Under the Sixth Amendment, you have the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses—including the police officer or breathalyzer technician who administered the breathalyzer test. If he does not testify, you may be able to challenge the admission of the test results as a violation of your constitutional rights. This is true even if another officer testifies who was present at the time you took the breathalyzer and witnessed it being done.
Let Us Help You Mount a Strong Defense to Your DUI Charges
These are just some of the ways to challenge the results of a breathalyzer test. You may also have other strong defenses to the charges you face that can significantly weaken the prosecutor’s case against you.
Our experienced DUI attorneys represent individuals charged with DUI in Fairfax and throughout Northern Virginia. We are committed to thoroughly reviewing any breathalyzer and blood test results and investigating the circumstances surrounding your arrest to identify all the potential defenses that can be raised in your case. We will aggressively fight to reach the best possible outcome for you.
Take advantage of our free consultation to learn more about our extensive experience and your options. Call our Fairfax office or fill out our online form to schedule your appointment today.