Breath and blood tests–law enforcement officials use a variety of tests to determine if they should charge a driver with DUI in California. But only one County in the State of California, Santa Clara County has a pilot project of sending first time offenders (upon the discretion of the arresting cop) to “sober stations” where a nurse or counselor makes every effort to get you signed up for an alcohol treatment program.
This saves you your license and jail time, but Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Solano counties are not doing this, so you need to read on unless you are were arrested in San Jose or Santa Clara County.
Measuring your breath
Although the word breathalyzer is actually a trade name for a specific type of breath testing device, people now use it generically to describe all types of alcohol breath tests. There are differences in the way each of these tests work, however.
No matter what the test, it’s important to remember that breathalyzers don’t really measure your blood alcohol content, but instead provide an estimate of your BAC based on the amount of alcohol that’s in your exhaled breath sample.
No matter what type of breathalyzers police use, there are several factors that can affect their reliability:
- Mouthwashes, breath freshers breath sprays and similar kinds of products can raise the BAC reading, since they contain alcohol.
- All these devices need to be calibrated regularly by qualified personnel. Lack of calibration can invalidate test results.
- The presence of fumes from paint, varnish (spilled nail polish) and other chemicals in the area or clost vicinity where the test is administered can skew the results.
- The temperature of your breath can impact BAC readings with breathalyzers.
- Diabetics and people with hypoglycemia may have more acetone in their breath, while people on low-carb diets (competitive bodybuilders and other athletes) may produce more ketone. Both substances can lead to false positive readings on a breathalyzer test.
- You will be required to take a deep breath before blowing into a breathalyzer to test the air from the lungs. A shallow breath may invalidate the results. But that may be the result of a medical condition.
Law enforcement officials are supposed to follow certain procedures when administering a breathalyzer:
- The police officer must have taken the required training in administering the breathalyzer test using that specific breathalyzer model.
- The officer must observe the person for 15 minutes before administering the test. During that time, the officer must ensure that the person does not eat, drink, vomit or regurgitate.
- Properly trained technicians are required to calibrate the breathalyzer every 10 days or 150 uses, whichever comes first. If the breathalyzer is dropped it should be reported and noted.
Failure to follow these procedures can invalidate the breathalyzer test results.
Blood tests measure the amount of alcohol (in the form of ethanol) in your body. They’re generally regarded as the most accurate type of tests for measuring BAC. But their results are not always the most accurate because there are several factors that can influence the blood test results.
- When drawing a blood sample, a technician will generally swab the area from which he/she is going to draw blood with alcohol to ensure that it is clean. But alcohol from that swab can contaminate the sample and result in a higher BAC reading.
- Faulty seals on blood sample storage containers can also result in contamination of the samples and lead to inaccurate readings.
- Blood samples that sit too long or are stored at the wrong temperature before processing can provide inaccurate BAC readings. The combination of yeast, sugar and bacteria that are normally found in your blood can result in the formation of more alcohol when samples aren’t stored under the right conditions.
- As with breathalyzers, some substances like cough syrup and herbal medicines can get into your blood stream, boosting your blood alcohol content so that the reading isn’t accurate.
- Alcohol content in the blood continues to rise for 30 to 60 minutes after you’ve stopped drinking. It usually takes at least that long for technicians to administer a blood alcohol test. That means you could have been driving with a BAC of less than 0.08 –under the legal limit—but the BAC rose beyond that limit by the time they took your blood sample. We will be happy to discuss the “rising blood alcohol” defense to help vindicate or reduce your charges under certain circumstances.
In California, failure to comply with a police request to submit to a breath test or a blood test can result in you losing your license for a year (for a first offense) and for two years for a second offense or with a previous DUI conviction.
Contact Fiumara and Milligan Law today at 707-571-8600 or 415-492-4507 if you or someone you love has been arrested and charged with a DUI and need our help now!
Since 1992 we have successfully handled thousands of DUI cases throughout NORTHERN CALIFORNIA.
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