Portable Breath Tests and Maryland DUIs

A portable breath test (PBT) is a hand-held breathalyzer unit that officers carry with them, usually in their trunk. They will ask individuals who they suspect of DUI to blow into it while on the side of the road. This should not be confused with the breathalyzer machine at the police station. The portable breath test conducted on the side of the road is not admissible in court. It cannot be used to prove an alcohol concentration to a judge or a jury. It is just for the officer to determine probable cause. Although there is no penalty for refusing to do a portable breath test, there is a penalty for refusing to do the breathalyzer test at the police station. A Maryland DUI lawyer can help a person understand any DUI charges

Portable Breath Tests in a Maryland DUI Arrest

After an individual performs a field sobriety test, the officer will frequently ask them to blow into a PBT. At that point, the officer has usually already made the decision to arrest the individual and is using the PBT as confirmation. PBTs are generally performed after field sobriety tests.

There may be a situation where an individual cannot perform a field sobriety test. In that case, the officer will have them do a PBT in lieu of a field sobriety test. The portable breath test carries no penalty for refusing to complete it. If an officer wants you to blow into a portable breath test, you can say no and there is no additional penalty, either administratively or criminally, as a result of the refusal to blow into a PBT.

Accuracy of Portable Breath Tests

PBTs generally are not terribly accurate since they are not properly calibrated, and they are not tested and recalibrated with the same frequency as the breathalyzer machines in the station. Additionally, because of their very nature, there are going to be errors that arise due to the fact that they are not kept in highly controlled conditions, they are bouncing around in the back of a police car and the environment they are in gets very hot or very cold depending on the location of the police car.

All of these factors are going to lead to a portable breath test machine getting less accurate over time. The good news about PBTs is that they are inadmissible in a court of law and cannot be used to show a breath alcohol content in court.

Challenging the Accuracy of PBTs

The accuracy or validity of a PBT is not usually an issue in a DUI case because the state is aware that they cannot admit the result from the PBT as evidence. If the state tries to get the officer to say what the result of the PBT was, a Maryland DUI attorney is going to raise an objection. Since the state is usually aware of that, they do not even try to get the officer to say a number.

Consult with a Maryland DUI Attorney Today

Usually the PBT breath sample does not happen in isolation. It is the result of an investigation for DUI. Any time there is a DUI, you should consult with an attorney. It is very rare for a person to take a PBT in any other context in Maryland.