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Roadside breath test considerations

A Massachusetts law enforcement officer has several ways to determine whether he or she has probable cause to arrest someone for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. One of these is the breath test, and according to Business Insider, refusing to take this test may not be the best option, even if the driver has had a few drinks. In fact, taking the test may provide a better opportunity for a defense strategy in court.

The Massachusetts Prosecutors’ OUI Manual explains that an officer should perform other roadside sobriety tests before administering the breath test. First, there should be an indication that the driver may be impaired based on the way he or she is driving. Once the vehicle is pulled over, there should be indicators that the person could be under the influence. At that point, the officer may require the driver to undergo the standard roadside sobriety tests.

The device used by officers does not use infrared breath testing, which would provide results that may be admissible in court. Instead, the preliminary screening instrument uses fuel cell technology, and the results are not considered valid proof of the level of blood alcohol content. However, if the preliminary test indicates that BAC is 0.08 percent or higher, a driver may be arrested, and official breath and blood tests may be required.

Because the breath testing device is computerized, there is always the chance that there is a programming error that could cause a false reading. A recent court ruling recognized this fact, and defendants are now allowed to challenge results, including device reliability factors such as calibration errors and source code problems.

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