The Scientific Approach to DUI Defense
It is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol in California. This “influence” can be determined by observing your driving behavior or by measuring how much alcohol was in your blood at the time you were driving. This measurement is the blood alcohol concentration or content level of the defendant. This is generally referred to as a BAC level. The BAC level is a key piece of evidence in many California DUI cases. Your BAC can be tested using a breathalyzer test, a blood test, or a urine test. Each test has its own weaknesses.
The breathalyzer test is the most common. It is a relatively reliable method of testing blood alcohol concentration and can be done conveniently using a hand-held device. It has significant downsides, however, because it does not directly test your blood. It essentially tests the alcohol level in your breath, not your blood. It is supposed to test the air deep in your lungs, called alveolar air, but sometimes captures the air in your mouth. The air in your mouth is not the same as the air in your lungs. The alcohol affects the air in your lungs after it has already been absorbed into your blood stream. The air in your mouth is only affected by alcohol that has not yet been absorbed into your blood stream. Because the BAC threshold is supposed to be a measurement of the alcohol in your blood stream, which you have ingested, a BAC level affected by mouth alcohol is not accurate.
Because of the potential inaccuracies, breath test results are sometimes challenged in court. There are many different questions that can be raised when challenging breath test results. Mouth alcohol is one of them. Mouth alcohol is the alcohol present in your breath in your mouth, not from your lungs. Drinking alcohol can raise your mouth alcohol, but so can a number of other things. First, alcohol-based products, such as mouthwash and breath sprays, can raise your mouth alcohol. Certain medicines, such as cough syrups, contain alcohol and could raise your mouth alcohol levels, too. Certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux disease, GERD, and heartburn can raise mouth alcohol levels as well. Even pieces of dental work, such as dentures or bridges, can trap alcohol in the mouth resulting in inaccurate test results.
The maintenance and calibration of the actual breathalyzer device can sometimes used as a defense to a DUI as well. Each device must be properly maintained and routinely calibrated and must be only used by a trained officer. If these standards aren’t adhered to, test results could be inaccurate. The officer must also wait 15 minutes before administering a breathalyzer test. This is called the observation period. This time allows the officer to monitor the person who will be taking the test to ensure they didn’t do anything that could change their mouth alcohol, which would skew the results. If an officer does not wait a full 15 minutes, it is possible the test results may not be as reliable as they could’ve been had the officer followed the protocol.
If you are facing DUI charges, you should speak with a California DUI defense attorney as soon as you can. Challenging your BAC test results can be complex, but it has been done successfully. I have seen many clients have their cases dismissed because of questionable BAC level test results. You may be able to challenge your test results, but it is important to start the process as early on in your case as possible and to do so only with skilled legal representation. An attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on whether or not challenging your BAC test results could be successful in your case. He or she can also assist you with the process of building a strong defense against your test results and presenting them skillfully in court.
If you are facing charges for a DUI in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area, call experienced DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can challenge the evidence against you and defend your dignity in court. Attorney Martens has over ten years of criminal defense experience and will fight hard for your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.