Having a blood, breath or urine test may be one of the most intimidating parts of being stopped by the police for an alleged DUI. From a tester’s mistake to a faulty device to a blood sample that’s compromised in the lab — many things can go wrong with chemical tests. An experienced DUI defense attorney can spot the flaws and protect your rights. When you are arrested for driving under the influence, it is critical to retain a defense attorney quickly.
DUI Tests Are Not Perfect
Just because a chemical test was taken to determine your blood alcohol level, it doesn’t mean that the testing process was done correctly, the equipment was in good working order or that errors weren’t made in the lab that processed your results.
Breath tests, particularly those taken by the Intoxilyzer 5000 breathalyzers, do not always give reliable readings. If the machine was not calibrated properly, if it was incorrectly maintained, if you have a health problem such as asthma, GERD or acid reflux – these render the test inaccurate.
Challenges to Intoxilyzer 5000 breathalyzers
In 2013, a Pennsylvania court case ruled that many breathalyzers used by Pennsylvania police can’t be considered accurate. Now that the admissibility of results from Intoxilyzer 5000 breathalyzers – used widely by Commonwealth police — has been called into question, breathalyzer results are now being challenged in Pennsylvania DUI cases.
DUI blood and urine tests
Blood and urine tests administered to measure your BAC must be taken properly and correctly to be valid. Your attorney will be able to build a good defense if: your blood sample was contaminated right after testing or in the lab, if several people handled your sample and subjected it to a greater contamination risk, if the person who took the sample was unqualified or if the test was taken more than two hours after your arrest as stipulated by Pennsylvania law.
Urine tests are considered the least reliable chemical testing method for alcohol or drugs. Your lawyer can challenge the test if the sample wasn’t properly labeled and stored, if you didn’t empty your bladder 20 minutes before producing your sample, you did not have sufficient privacy while giving your sample or you did not get a clean cup for it.
Testing for drugs
Police will usually use a urine or blood test for drug use.
The police may bring in specially-trained Drug Recognition Evaluators who use a multi-step program to test whether or not a driver was impaired by drugs. If a DRE is called in, they will look for signs of drug use like injection marks. They will take a close look at the pupils of your eyes, blood pressure and pulse rate, and they will ask you questions about possible drug use. They may also conduct their own field sobriety test.
Search warrants for blood tests
A 2013 US Supreme Court case ruling said that police need to obtain a search warrant before they can cause a motorist to take a blood test to measure their blood alcohol level. The impact of this decision is currently being played out in Pennsylvania courts.
Field Sobriety Tests
The police may ask you to get out of the car to take a field sobriety test. This is a test of your mental and physical capabilities to see if you have been drinking. In particular, they are observing how well you can follow directions. They may ask you to walk and turn, or stand on one leg.
Often you will be asked to perform a horizontal gaze nystagmus test which has a 77% accuracy rate at detecting BAC of .10% or higher and is more accurate than other field sobriety tests. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test the police will move an object like a pen about a foot from your face, and then observe your eye movements as you watch it.
You do not have to take a field sobriety test. The officer who pulled you over may have already made up his or her mind that you were driving drunk and they want you to take a field sobriety test for more evidence. If you choose not to take the test, it may support their belief that you are over the legal limit. However if you are inebriated and you take the test, you may provide more evidence of your condition.
Chemical test refusals
Pennsylvania has implied consent laws – meaning that if you are arrested for drunk driving you implicitly agree to take a chemical test to determine your BAC. You do have the right to refuse to take a blood test, although if you do your driver’s license will be suspended for at least a year. However if you are driving with a license that was suspended for a prior conviction you must take a chemical test. If you have refused to take a chemical test for DUI two or more times, or you have a prior conviction, your license will be suspended for 18 months.
No DUI Test is Completely Accurate
No chemical test is one hundred percent infallible. Mistakes in labeling and storing can occur in a lab. Equipment malfunctions occur in breathalyzers. Devices used to test breath and blood may not be calibrated properly to produce reliable results. Blood samples may not be properly preserved and as a result may give a false high result.
How A Lawyer Will Help
When you are up against DUI charges, you need an attorney who will stand by you every step of the way, work hard to discredit any evidence – and work with you to determine your best course of action.
Pennsylvania DUI Law
DUI is described and defined under The Pennsylvania Code under Title 75, Chapter 38. Read the code here.
Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Certified
Attorney Michael H. Fienman represents clients in criminal and traffic matters throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Mr. Fienman has completed the same DWI detection training as most law enforcement officers and he holds a certificate in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) As an experienced trial attorney, he is a zealous advocate known for relentlessly defending clients in state court, federal court, and before administrative agencies.
Attorney Fienman is licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of New Jersey, the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, and the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Questions? Contact us today.
Based on the evidence, Fienman Defense will try to get your DUI charges dismissed or lowered. Should the case go to trial, we will fight to present the strongest defense possible for your situation.