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The Difference Between a Portable and Regular Breath Test in Atlanta DUI Investigation

Portable Breath Test vs. Station Breath Test

There are two types of chemical breath testing devices the police and state patrol utilize when trying to determine the blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The first is a portable device, used in the field at roadside DUI stops. These portable breath tests may not be as reliable as other, more sophisticated breath test machines. The regular breath test machines are usually at the police station. The results of the station breath test machine are used as evidence in the criminal case to prove the driver's BAC was over the legal limit.

When the police suspect a driver may be under the influence of alcohol, they may try and get them to submit a breath test into the portable breath testing device, often called a breathalyzer. This is used only in an investigative capacity, and not as evidence at a criminal trial. Police use portable breath testing devices to help establish probable cause that the driver is intoxicated. However, providing a breath sample for a breathalyzer device is voluntary, and not required by law.

The hand-held breath testing devices, such as the Alco-Sensor, usually use an electrochemical platinum fuel cell analysis. The results from these are not as accurate as other models, but provide a preliminary alcohol screening levels.

Alternatively, after a driver is arrested, then the breath testing is no longer voluntary, and the police may request a driver to submit a sample at the police station. Station, or desktop breath analyzers generally use infrared spectrophotometer technology, electrochemical fuel cell technology, or both. These devices do not directly measure the alcohol in a person's blood, but analyze the amount of alcohol in a breath sample to estimate the BAC.

A station breath testing device, such as the Intoxilyzer, works by analyzing the driver's breath in a tube, to produced a BAC reading. These are also known as evidential breath testers, because their results are used as evidence in court. However, there can still be inaccurate readings, especially if the machine has not been properly kept up or calibrated.

Both types of breath tests attempt to determine the driver's BAC level. However, because of Georgia's implied consent laws, refusing a portable breath test has no significant consequences, but refusing a regular breath test will result in a 1 year suspended license.

In addition to the inaccuracies that plague both field and station breath testing devices, there are a number of things that can make the breath test device give false readings that a driver is over the limit. In some cases, chewing gum or mouth wash can trigger an alcohol reading. In some cases, medical conditions such as liver disease or diabetes, can result in false readings.

Despite the known inaccuracies in breath testing devices, police remain confident in the machines' readings. However, an experience and trained DUI defense lawyer will be able to investigate the breath testing devices, how and when they were calibrated, determine whether the person conducting the test was properly trained and appropriately instructed the driver while administering the breath test. This investigation can be used in support of the driver's criminal case to dispute the police officer's BAC findings.

Atlanta Breath Test DUI Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one have been arrested for driving under the influence in the Atlanta area, your license will be suspended if you refused to submit to a breath test. However, there may be reasons why your refusal was justified, and your refusal should not be used against you in court. You only have 30 days after your arrest to fight the driver's license suspension. Call me today, so we can discuss just what happened in your case, and I will fight for you to keep your license to drive.

Call Us 24 Hours a Day

We have a line that will be answered any time, day or night. If you have been arrested for DUI and are facing arraignment at 8:00am tomorrow, or if you are anywhere else in the judicial process, contact the Office of Richard Lawson as soon as possible. Call Us 24 Hours a Day: (404) 800-5810


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