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Can Maryland drivers challenge a DUI breath test?

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility reports that Maryland outpaces the nation in the percentage of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. In 2019, 32.1% of the state’s fatalities were due to alcohol-impaired driving compared to 28.1% for the nation.

Officers use breath tests to catch inebriated drivers, but the devices and operators are not without flaws.

Devices not infallible

An officer may request a driver suspected of operating a vehicle under the influence to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT). The devices for such tests are not employed in controlled conditions and are irregularly calibrated. The roadside breath test is not allowed as testimony or evidence by the State, but the defendant may offer the results as evidence.

If the DUI breath test or other field sobriety test suggests a driver is under the influence, the officer can bring the motorist into custody. The officer may then request the suspect to take a breath test in the station with a trained and certified operator using more accurate equipment. These results are admissible by the State as evidence.

Options for a defendant

A driver may refuse a field sobriety test or a breath test, but the refusal of the PBT leads to a 120-day license suspension. If willing to make that sacrifice, a driver’s refusing the PBT denies the prosecution that evidence to use against them.

A person who submits to a breath test can present a defense claiming outside influences interfered with the machine. Such an argument requires solid data and a comprehensive understanding of the machine and the physiological or mechanical factors that might influence a reading.

A motorist accused of driving under the influence faces a well-prepared legal system. Drivers seeking to beat a DUI charge must diligently prepare to improve their odds of success.

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