California DUI laws are centered are blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, readings. Taking a Breathalyzer test is a quick and easy way to measure your BAC. When you are pulled over for a DUI, you may be asked to take a breathalyzer test. Breathalyzer tests estimate the alcohol concentration, also called alcohol content, in your blood by measuring how much alcohol is in your breath. You may feel like a machine that essentially estimates how much you were drinking should not be used against you for a DUI conviction. Even though the breathalyzer test can only estimate your BAC, because it indirectly measures it through your breath and not your blood itself, it is a fairly accurate estimation. The science behind breathalyzers is actually pretty complex. Short of taking a blood draw and waiting for blood chemical test results, a breathalyzer is the next best way to measure BAC. Newer breathalyzers are very good at measuring just alcohol and generally are not triggered to present a false positive for any other chemical. Good science does have its drawbacks; since they are so good at measuring alcohol, they may react to other forms of alcohol in your breath, such as that from dental hygiene products or cough syrups. The fact that breathalyzers merely estimate your BAC, coupled with sensitivity to other forms of alcohol in your breath could make someone want to resist taking a breathalyzer test in the field when asked by a police officer. While it is true the machine could feasibly give the officer a reading suggesting you were driving over the legal BAC limit, .08% for first time offenders over 21, you do not have many other options. Your rights when first pulled over for a DUI are clear. If you are asked to take a breathalyzer before the officer begins the arrest process, you are permitted to refuse to take the test. Unfortunately, at the point an officer asks you to take the breathalyzer test, he or she may already have noted other signs that you have been drinking and driving, meaning even if you refuse, they can arrest you anyways based off of these other signs. Once arrested, your rights change. There is a law in California called the implied consent law. This law is written into your application for a driver's license in so much that when you first applied for a California driver's license, you were consenting to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test when arrested for a DUI. This only applies to situation where your arresting officer had reason to pull you over and had reason to believe you were drinking and driving above the legal limit. Under this law, you have to consent to a BAC test at the time of arrest. This can either be the breathalyzer or a blood test and your arresting officer should give you this option. When given the choice between the blood test and the breathalyzer, keep in mind that breathalyzers only estimate your BAC and their accuracy has been successfully challenged at DUI hearings, thus acquitting the defendant of the charges. They are also the least invasive way to have your BAC tested. A blood test will be reliably accurate however it is invasive and many people don't like having their blood drawn. In cases where you are not able to take a blood test due to medical reasons, you can be given a urine test as an alternative. What test you choose is up to you but make it keeping in mind the pros and cons of each test. Refusing to submit to any chemical test at the time of arrest can have serious consequences. Your arresting officer should notify you of the consequences of refusing to take the test. If you refuse to take a test at the time of arrest, your license will be automatically suspended under California's Administrative Per Se law that mandates the DMV to suspend licenses of drivers coughing driving under the influence. Those over 21 years of age who refuse to take a chemical test to measure their BAC will lose their license for one year for a first offense. A subsequent offense will result in an additional year of suspension. Those under 21 years of age who refuse to submit to a test when being arrested or detained will lose their license for one year for a first offense, with an additional year being added for each subsequent offense. You will also face fines and penalties and your refusal can be held against you in court at your DUI hearing. In general, while you can take a blood test as an alternative to a breathalyzer test, doing so may not help your chances of avoiding a DUI conviction. The choice is up to you but if arrested, there are consequences for refusing to submit to any chemical test to measure your BAC.
If you are facing DUI charges in Tulare, Kings or Fresno counties, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can help. Experienced in DUI and criminal defense, attorney Christopher Martens can fight aggressively for you to ensure you are charged fairly and justly based on correct facts. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your options for defending your case.