Drunk and drugged driving are severe crimes under California law. California has toughened its DUI laws to protect its people and reduce cases of DUI accidents on the roads. An arrest for DUI can result in severe consequences, including suspension of the driver’s license, jail time, and payment of a hefty court fine. The court could also require you to have an IID device in your vehicle and pay for drug or alcohol abuse treatment.

However, the police must have irrefutable evidence that you are operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs to arrest you and charge you with DUI. They use various ways to collect evidence, including using a breathalyzer to measure the amount of alcohol in your blood. Breathalyzers must be well-calibrated to produce accurate results. Otherwise, you could face charges and a possible DUI conviction due to false results.

Our experienced DUI lawyers at Koenig Law Office can assist you in understanding more about breathalyzer calibration and your options after an arrest for DUI in Bakersfield. Additionally, we can streamline your legal process, protect your rights, and fight for a fair outcome for your case.

The Basics of a DUI Charge

An arrest for DUI occurs when the police suspect that you are driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. You will face charges under two DUI laws, VC 23252(a) for driving while under the influence and VC 23152(b), the per se DUI law. The latter is a legal presumption that your level of intoxication or amount of alcohol in your system is above a particular limit. The police must determine the alcohol level in your blood and compare it with the standard level of .08% to determine how intoxicated you were. That is why they need a calibrated breathalyzer to obtain accurate BAC results.

The law has set specific BAC limits for various drivers across the states. A regular driver aged 21 and older must not drive with a BAC of .08% or more. Drivers below that age should not operate a vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system. Commercial drivers, including truck, bus, and taxi drivers, must not operate with a BAC of 0.04% or more. Exceeding these limits can result in severe DUI charges under VC 23152(b). You will face charges under this law, along with drunk or drugged driving charges under VC 23152(a). A conviction can result in life-changing consequences.

Once the police obtain your BAC result, they do not require further evidence that you were operating while intoxicated. But remember that you will still face DUI charges for appearing or acting drunk, even if your BAC level is below the standard. However, the police will require more evidence to sustain this charge.

BAC testing is crucial for officers making DUI arrests. Once they establish that your alcohol level is high, they can pursue charges and obtain a conviction. Thus, officers will require you to agree to BAC testing. You could be required to undergo a blood or breath test. Breath tests are more common, easy, and quick to administer. Even though blood tests produce accurate results and can tell the kinds of drugs you have consumed, they are pretty invasive. The law only requires the police to request a blood test if they cannot obtain results from a breath test.

The Breathalyzer

The police mainly use breathalyzers to determine the level of alcohol in your system when they suspect you of driving while intoxicated. Remember that breathalyzers are easy and quick to administer, are less invasive, and produce reliable results.

When the police stop you and start investigating you for DUI, they could ask you to agree to a few sobriety tests. They do this before arresting you. As part of the testing, they could conduct a preliminary chemical test and a breath test to determine whether you are intoxicated. If you agree to take the tests, an officer will use a handheld device or breathalyzer. They will ask you to breathe heavily into the device, and the device will register a BAC result.

Officers conduct preliminary tests to obtain evidence for an arrest. You are not obligated to agree to these tests, but you must agree to take them after the arrest. If the officer has enough evidence to arrest you for a DUI, they will do so even if you fail to submit a breath sample for testing. After arrest, it will be illegal to fail to agree to a BAC test.

Breathalyzers are designed to give an approximate result of the level of alcohol in your blood. Though the results are usually not foolproof, courts accept breathalyzer test results as sufficient evidence in DUI cases. A judge will likely give a guilty verdict in a DUI case when your test results show a higher than standard BAC level. However, the police must demonstrate that the breathalyzer they used to obtain those results is reliable, functional, and well-calibrated. That is the only way the court can consider the results reliable. Like all other devices and equipment, a breathalyzer can produce the wrong results if it is not maintained well.

Remember that officers conduct breath and sobriety tests before making an arrest. These tests give them probable cause for your arrest. Once you are under arrest, the officer can ask you to undergo further testing to determine the exact alcohol level or drugs in your system. The police use urine, blood, and oral fluid tests to obtain concrete evidence for DUI cases. You could also take another breath test using a different device for more accurate and reliable results.

The Implied Consent Law

It helps to understand your rights and legal requirements when undergoing a DUI investigation. It is advisable to engage the help and support of an experienced DUI attorney from the beginning of the legal process. That way, you can avoid making mistakes that can complicate your case. It also helps to prevent self-incrimination, which could worsen your situation.

California has an implied consent law in place for people facing DUI charges. Under this law, it is assumed that you have consented to BAC tests because you hold a driver’s license and operate a vehicle on public highways and roads. When the police suspect you of driving a vehicle while intoxicated, they will ask your consent to conduct a chemical test, like a blood, urine, or breath test, to determine how much alcohol or drugs you have consumed.

You can refuse to undergo testing before arrest but will be penalized under this law if you do not submit to testing after an arrest. The penalties you will likely face depend mainly on the underlying DUI charges and your criminal history. They could include court fines, criminal charges with possible jail time, and a suspension of your driver’s license. Your skilled attorney will advise you on when to decline and when to accept chemical testing to avoid worsening your legal situation.

Challenges With Breathalyzer Results

Even though breathalyzers do not provide accurate levels of alcohol in the blood, they must provide reliable results. That way, the police can establish whether you have violated the DUI laws per se. However, there have been reported cases of unreliability when breathalyzers are used to obtain DUI evidence. That is the main challenge the police and criminal courts face with breathalyzer results.

If a breathalyzer is not working as it should, it will not produce reliable evidence for the prosecution. It is unlawful for the police to use unreliable results to conduct an arrest. If you are unsure of the condition of the breathalyzer used to obtain your BAc results, you can fight the prosecutor’s evidence during trial for a better outcome for your case.

Breathalyzers and other chemical testing devices require regular maintenance and calibration to deliver reliable results. A poorly maintained or properly calibrated device or equipment will deliver reliable results. Results like those cannot be the basis the police use to support charges under the per se DUI law. If the court accepts unreliable results as factual, an innocent person can pay for an offense they did not commit in the first place. The law will not be as just as it should be.

External factors like medications and medical conditions can influence a BAC breath test. Mouthwashes and some breath fresheners have alcohol content in them that could interfere with a breath test. People who suffer from acid reflux or severe heartburn, hypoglycemia, diabetes, or are in ketosis can register a false positive BAC. Recent vomiting and smoking are also other factors that could influence your breath test. Police officers are aware of all these factors. They must consider them before accepting a positive result as evidence of drunk driving.

Officers must also adhere to particular regulations when administering breath tests to improve their chances of obtaining a reliable result. For example, they must only use an approved device to conduct their BAc tests. The officer conducting the test must be well-trained to use breathalyzers and other breath-testing devices. If not, an aggressive DUI attorney can compel the judge to throw that evidence out of court.

It is beneficial to your case if you engage the help of a skilled DUI attorney. They will investigate how the police obtained evidence, whether the testing devices used were well maintained and calibrated, and if the device was approved for use by the police. If the police did not follow any of the laid-down testing procedures, you have a chance to fight for a favorable outcome.

Breathalyzer Calibration

A skilled technician usually does breathalyzer calibration. The process entails adjusting the software in a breathalyzer to ensure that it produces accurate BAc results. Calibration must be done on all breathalyzers the police use to administer breath tests.

When a breathalyzer is in constant use, its sensor can become saturated, causing its results to drift. It starts registering incorrect results once it is properly calibrated. California requires all breathalyzers to be calibrated every ten days or at least after 150 uses. If this is not done, you can refute your BAC results as unreliable during the trial. The police must follow the legal guidelines to ensure that the test results obtained using breathalyzers are admissible during the trial.

Here are some of the basic procedures the police must follow when using breathalyzers to obtain DUI evidence:

  • They must conduct a breath test at least twice, and the results of these tests must be within a .02% BAC range of each other
  • Breathalyzers or testing devices the police use must be listed under the approved and acceptable devices by the state
  • The breathalyzer must be in perfect working condition. It should be well maintained and tested regularly for precision at predetermined intervals.
  • The officer administering the BAC tests should have a certificate to show they have the right skills to use that particular equipment.
  • The officer administering the tests must do so after undergoing the required training.
  • Before taking the test, the officer must ensure that you do not eat, burp, regurgitate, smoke, or vomit for some time.

When planning your defense, you must discuss these serious issues with your attorney. A skilled attorney will know the kind of information they need to fight your charges during trial. For example, if the breathalyzer the officer used to test your BAC was not correctly calibrated, they can compel the judge to dismiss the test results. That could leave the prosecutor with insufficient evidence to obtain a guilty verdict.

What a DUI Lawyer Can Do For You

Understanding these legal requirements is crucial to ensuring you know and can protect your rights when facing DUI charges. You stand a better chance of enjoying a smooth legal process and obtaining a fair outcome for your case when you contact a skilled DUI attorney right after your arrest. A qualified attorney will ensure the police follow the proper case investigation procedures. They will also fight to ensure that your rights are not violated.

The challenges the police and courts face with breathalyzers are not uncommon. DUI attorneys are always looking for loopholes when developing defense strategies for their clients. For example, if you suspect the breathalyzer is not working as it should and you talk to your attorney about it, they will know the evidence to obtain to render the test results inadmissible.

If you show your attorney that the police did not follow the required procedures when administering your breath test, they will have a basis to fight your charges during the trial. For example, if the officer only asked you to blow once into the device or took your breath sample right after vomiting, they can challenge the accuracy of those test results in court. If your BAC readings are higher than you expected, considering the amount of alcohol you consumed, the device was not well maintained or calibrated. The judge will render your results inadmissible in court if the police violated the procedures.

DUI attorneys can subpoena the calibration and maintenance data of the testing device the officer used on you.  They will use those records as evidence that the device was poorly cared for and could not have produced accurate and reliable results.

In criminal cases, the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor. The prosecutor will use the evidence the police have gathered to demonstrate your offense's elements beyond a reasonable doubt. When your attorney challenges the accuracy of your BAC results, the prosecutor will face a stricter burden to prove, using other evidence, that you were driving while intoxicated. Their evidence could include police reports about your physical appearance, alcohol breath, and poor performance during sobriety testing. If these are insufficient to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt, the judge will dismiss your case.

Thus, a DUI lawyer can fight to ensure that your trial is fair and that you obtain a favorable outcome for your case. If the breathalyzer is not well-calibrated, your attorney will reduce your chances of being convicted unfairly. An experienced DUI attorney will investigate your case and the prosecutor’s evidence to ensure that you are not sentenced to an offense you did not commit. They will aggressively fight for your chances to obtain the best outcome. They will also explain and protect your rights.

Find an Experienced DUI Attorney Near Me

Do you or someone you know face DUI charges in Bakersfield due to a higher-than-standard BAC?

DUI is a severe offense whose conviction can result in life-altering consequences. You could serve time in jail, pay a hefty court fine, and lose your driver’s license upon conviction. A conviction record for DUI remains on your record for years and can impact various aspects of your life, including your professional life.

Breathalyzer calibration is a crucial requirement when judges are trying DUI cases. A breathalyzer must be well-calibrated to produce accurate and reliable results. If you suspect your DUI charges are due to incorrect BAC results, we can help you at the Koenig Law Office. We will investigate the likely cause of the inaccurate results and fight them in court for a fair outcome in your case. Contact us at 661-793-7222 to discuss your case and our services more.