If I Blew Into A Breathalyzer Or Provided A Blood Sample, Am I Automatically Guilty Of DUI?
Defendants are never “automatically” guilty of anything in American courts. However, they can be almost automatically guilty, if that makes any sense. Florida, like all other states, has a per se DUI law. In ye olden days, an adverse chemical test result was only a presumption of intoxication. Now, it’s absolute proof of intoxication, assuming the gadget was working properly and there were no issues with the sample. More on these things below.
DUI might have the most serious direct and indirect consequences of all the misdemeanors in Florida. In many cases, the cost of a DUI conviction is more than $20,000, even for a first-time offense. Some of these costs are associated with the arrest, but many are associated with a conviction. So, if a Tampa DUI lawyer wins the case in court, the costs go down considerably.
Beating the Breathalyzer in a DUI
When these cases go to court, prosecutors and police Breathalyzer techs dazzle jurors with tales of electrochemical reactions and fuel cells which make a Breathalyzer seem like an incredibly sophisticated device. But these things are smoke and mirrors.
Essentially, the Breathalyzer is an updated version of the Drunk-o-Meter, an extremely primitive device which was invented in the 1920s. Both these gadgets measure breath alcohol levels and use them to estimate Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels, which is the legal standard in Florida. This extra step gives rise to a number of potential problems with the breath sample, such as:
- Mouth Alcohol Levels: If suspects burp or belch, alcohol particles from the stomach gush into the mouth. Therefore, the breath alcohol reading could be artificially high. This problem is especially acute if the suspect had anything to drink within the last hour or so.
- Unabsorbed Alcohol: The time issue also comes into play in this context. Usually, alcohol travels from the stomach to the liver to the blood, instead of directly from the stomach to the blood. As a result, if the alcohol consumption was recent, it hasn’t made it to the bloodstream yet. Once again, the BAC estimate could be artificially high.
- Calibration Issues: The aforementioned attempts to bolster the Breathalyzer could backfire. The more sophisticated a device is, the more TLC and maintenance it needs. Judges have thrown out hundreds or thousands of breath test results over this issue. On a related note, officers might only be trained to use an older model Breathalyzer.
Officers are supposed to watch people beginning fifteen minutes prior to the test, to ensure that the sample is pure. But courts have significantly watered down this requirement. In fact, in most cases, this observation period is more like a waiting period. Therefore, many officers simply ignore it. Prosecutors pay the price, because it’s much harder to validate the sample in these situations.
Overcoming Adverse Blood Test Results
Since there is no extra breath-blood step when it comes to blood samples, they’re a lot more accurate than breath samples. However, there are still some possible issues.
Many Tampa criminal defense attorneys order re-tests in these situations. Frequently, the results from an independent lab are much different from the results a police chemist claims to have obtained. Furthermore, blood samples often have chain of custody issues. These samples must usually travel from the defendant’s body to a lab to a storage facility to a courtroom. Any gap in the chain of custody could affect the sample’s reliability.
Very few DUI cases involve blood samples. Since they are so much more invasive than breath samples, police officers usually need search warrants before they can draw blood from a defendant. Most officers don’t want to bother with this extra procedural step.
Connect with a Hard-Working Hillsborough County Attorney
DUI chemical test cases are difficult, but not impossible, to win. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. Convenient payment plans are available.