Challenging a Maryland DUI Breath Test

One of the methods that law enforcement uses to determine whether someone is intoxicated or not, is through breathalyzer tests. Although these tests are typically accurate, if the devices used to administer these tests are not properly maintained or calibrated, it can lead to errors. In turn, these errors could result in an incorrect BAC level, ultimately leading to an incorrect and undeserved DUI offense. If you have been charged with a DUI due to an inaccurate reading and you want to know more about challenging a Maryland DUI breath test, contact an experienced lawyer today.

Breath Tests Used to Measure BAC

The breath tests in Maryland are done through the Intoximeter II, the ECIR II edition. It is standardized pretty much across the country, but the state of Maryland uses the Intoximeter exclusively. They are in police stations, barracks, and detention centers. The machine itself is very specific. It is handled by an operator or chemist, which is a police officer who has been trained and certified in operating that equipment.

The machines themselves have to be regularly certified and tested to make sure they are operating properly. They clean and update them, which is really important because if there is a flaw with one particular machine, the results cannot be used. When challenging a Maryland DUI breath test, an attorney might call into question the maintenance and care of the device (or lack thereof) as a reason for the error.

Requirements a Testing Device Must Meet

In order for the sample to be considered valid, the machine itself will need to self-authenticate and validate itself. It tests itself and it will show that it passed. On the bottom of the test, it will say success at the completion of the test. It will also say “Alcohol present” or “Alcohol not present.” If a person blows zero, it will tell the person that they blew a zero.

It has to be signed by the operator and attached to an alcohol certification form. The machine itself has its own requirements. There are expiration dates on it. There are strict rules on how the machine itself must be kept, cleaned, and serviced, and all of those records are generally kept at that station or barrack.

DUIs Based on Observations Alone

These are times when officers will say they observed an odor of alcohol, bloodshot watery eyes, slurred stammered speech, delayed cognitive response, fumbling with the license, or the person could not find their registration. None of that that is illegal. The odor of the alcohol coming inside a person’s car could be from anything. The person could be a bartender or driving someone else home. It may not be immediately coming from their own breath. Even if it is, it sounds crazy, but a person can drink and then drive.

People go to dinner all the time. They may have a glass of wine. They finished the dinner, they have dessert and coffee, or maybe one drink. They are well under the legal limit. Odor is insufficient. They can use a lot of those things as indicators, but they need reasonably articulated suspicion.

How the Defense May Challenge the Results of a Roadside Breath Test

Challenging a Maryland DUI breath test can happen a couple of different ways. At the roadside is basically a box that comes out of an officer’s pocket or car. It is generally stored in there, exposed to the heat and cold. It is usually not calibrated and if it is, it is not done regularly.

Breath tests can also be unreliable because they are administered outdoors. A person is given a little plastic straw that is unwrapped and put on top. The straw is supposed to be clean. A person is going to blow through it and try to record a sample from while they are outside in the elements on a windy day. If the wind is blowing in the person’s face, it is going to contain that breath more than it should for a longer period of time. It may, at that point, taint the sample. It is not reliable and in Maryland, it is inadmissible in court. As far as a courtroom, it is not allowed for any evidence at all. It is not even allowed in testimony.

Steps When Challenging the Results of a Breath Test

When challenging a Maryland DUI breath test, a person needs to focus on the protocols. Maybe the person was already parked when a police officer pulls up behind them.  A person may be at the scene of an accident when the police arrive, but there has to be good contact. If there is no contact, a person is already challenging what was there.

It does not matter that a breath score came in at 0.08 or above. What matters is that all of the protocols are followed from step one, which is phase 1 of a DUI. In this phase, a vehicle is in motion. The vehicle does not have to immediately be in motion, it could be recently, or it can be inferred. There are precedents and case law that allow a vehicle to be on, and an individual to take shelter in that vehicle. If there is no credible observation or no violation of the transportation law, a person does not have to worry about the breath score because they just managed to suppress it. If an individual wants to know more about challenging a DUI breath test in Maryland, they should consult a knowledgeable attorney that could fight for them.