Understanding the Portable Breath Test

A portable breath test (PBT) is a device used by police to help them decide whether or not to make a drunk driving arrest. It is typically given at the roadside where the drunk driving arrest is made. However, the “official” breath test machine – the Draeger 9510 Alcosensor – is located at a police station. The PBT is used for “probable cause” during a stop, whereas the Draeger is used as evidence at trial on a drunk driving charge. Although the “Breathalyzer” has not been used in Washington state by police for years, the term is often still used when referring to the evidential breath test machine at the police station.

Washington law specifies a protocol for the administration of the PBT and the advisements that must be given before it is administered. If the officer doesn’t follow the protocol, the results of the PBT cannot be used in court for any purpose. If the correct protocol is followed, the results may be used in a “probable cause” hearing — but not at trial. Preventing the portable breath test from being used at trial requires the defense attorney to be alert to the potential use of the portable breath test. A defense lawyer must make a timely objection in pretrial motions (called “Motions In Limine”) before the start of a DUI trial.

There is a crucial difference between the PBT and the “official” breath test machine. While you do not have to submit to the PBT, the law says that you will lose your license for at least one year if you refuse to take a legally requested test on the Draeger 9510. It is a grave mistake to confuse the PBT with the “official” test, but the critical legal difference between the PBT and the Draeger 9510is often not clearly explained at the time of a drunk driving arrest and processing. These are fine legal distinctions, and one more reason that a person arrested for a DUI should ask to speak with an attorney immediately.

Contact an Experienced Washington DUI Attorney

DUI charges can have a devastating impact on your life and livelihood. If you have been arrested in connection with DUI charges in Washington, it’s best to contact an attorney immediately to ensure your rights are adequately protected. Offering reliable representation and aggressive advocacy, the Fox Law Firm PLLC has been successfully defending clients in DUI cases since 1985. Contact Attorney Jon Fox for a free consultation by calling (425) 274-9190.