Can you request a breathalyzer?

At a DUI checkpoint that is. Here’s the story, my SO and I were on our way home from dinner last night and there was a DUI checkpoint setup, we could have avoided it but that would’ve meant going out of our way. We knew neither of us had been drinking at all and figured we would just go right through. For whatever reason, they had the idea that he had been drinking. The wrote ‘possible DUI vehicle’ on the windshield, got us out of the car, separated us and ran tons of field sobriety tests on him. After about 20 minutes or so (and being very rude about it according to him) they apparently were satisfied that he wasn’t drunk and let us go.

My question is, if he had asked to be breathalzyed, would they have done so and just let us go at that point? Or is something else that could’ve made it go faster? We live in southern California and this happened on Ventura Blvd in Encino. (not sure how specific a location will help with an answer)

You asking about one of the hand held units? In many jurisdictions they are not used at all because they are generally not as accurate as the table top units. In my area (NJ) a breath test is something that happens after you are found to be impaired. The field tests prove impairment, the breath test verifies it.

If your request is granted you would have to be brought in to where the unit is. There is a 20 minute wait time before the test begins. Then the test takes a while. Then transport back. Your wait time would be a lot longer. If they had the hand held units at that checkpoint they probably would have used it.

And don’t forget alcohol is not the only thing that causes inpairment.

he had nothing to drink besides a coke with dinner and the only medication he takes is for acid reflux. I honestly don’t know why they thought he was impaired in some way.

So is the only thing to do wait until they decide you’re not impaired? (if I’m wandering out of GQ territory now, I apologize)

Maybe they misheard him and thought he said some coke with dinner. What alternative do you suggest? That is the only way to screen for drunk drivers in places where DUI checkpoints are allowed and the police have to build a case the right way in case he blows over the legal limit if he fails the field sobriety tests. DUI lawyers are good at getting people off on technicalities if it isn’t done by a specific procedure. Like Loach says, they probably didn’t even have a field breathalyzer because most police departments don’t carry them in the cars because of legal implications.

I understand that, I’m just asking if there’s any alternative to being held on the sidewalk, going through 20 some minutes of field tests (not to mention being directly accused by an officer of being on drugs while a reporter and her camera man are wandering around) etc. There’s a lot more about the way it was handled that really annoys me but I’m trying to see if there’s a legal way to speed the process up. I honestly don’t understand why it would take so long to determine that someone was in fact, sober.

There was some reason why they did it. Maybe his eyes were bloodshot and glassy from being tired. Maybe he seemed confused when they were talking to him. I don’t know. But there is no reason to do it without some cause. What most people don’t take into account is the cops point of view. Believe me they had no motivation to waste 20 minutes of their time with some one who is not impaired. Its a pain in the ass and they get no benefit from it.

Ok, I suppose we’ll just avoid checkpoints when possible. Like I said, the only reason we didn’t do that is because we knew there was nothing wrong with either of us.

Could you (or someone) expand on that please? There are legal implications of field breathalyzers in the US?

To Antinor01’s OP – sure there are alternatives… but it sounds like they might not be available in your area.

We don’t have/use field tests in NZ – I’ve only ever seen them on US TV & Movies. Current process here for DUI checkpoints is:
[li]Stop at checkpoint, roll down window, and say “Hi” to the officer.[/li][li]Officer holds a small electronic handheld unit near your mouth – you don’t actually blow into it, just breathe near it.[/li][li]You say your name and address – something the police here are allowed to ask that you are obligated to answer.[/li][li]If your breath reads over the limit then (I think) you move on to the “blow into the bag” type tester…[/li][/ol]
…and/or go to the station for a blood test? Not totally sure – never seen this part of the process. :slight_smile:

But assuming a negative result, as would have been Antinor01’s case – total stopping time is probably a minute or so.

We live in Nor Cal.
My wife was in the process one night of an attempted sobriety check. She was being less than fully co-operative. When they asked her to walk a line, she refused and asked to just use the breathilizer. That was it, they said no, and she was free to go.

BTW, I was in the passenger seat, totally trashed, she hadn’t had a drop, but I’m sure the cop could smell the booze the minute he stepped up to the car, so they reason to to be suspicious.

As to the OP, you gave the reason yourself why this happened, the news crew was there and they wanted to make sure they wered oing something for the camera.

It would be different from state to state. In general where they are in use they are used as part of probable cause rather than proof of a per se offense.

In NJ it was a 4 year ordeal to get the courts to recognize the validity of the newer breath test machines. That was so the old 1950s breathalyzers could be replaced. Got hard and expensive to find parts. No one is willing to go through the expense of validating a handheld unit just to give the police another tool to gather PC.

They let her go cause at that point they felt she was sober. If they thought she was drunk she would be under arrest and if she blew .00% then she would still have to go through the ordeal of being arrested and going to court. There is no way they can force you to do sobriety tests. But I would not recommend refusal as a tactic. It could work for you but could just as easily backfire.

Refusing to cooperate with the police in a test designed to ensure road safety doesn’t seem very sympathetic - were they being rude or abrasive?

Portable breath testers (PBTs) do not have “judicial notice” in my state, Texas; that means that, unlike the breathalyzers they have at police stations, they’re not recognized as sufficiently reliable that the results obtained therefrom are admissible in court against the defendant. As noted previously, though, they are another tool that police may use to determine whether there is probable cause to arrest the defendant.

Personally, I like 'em, because even though the results are not admissible, the fact that the test was given is. So, the questioning goes, “Officer, what did you do next?” “I asked the defendant to blow into a portable breath tester.” “Without revealing the results, did he blow into the tester?” “Yes he did.” “What did you do next?” “I placed the defendant under arrest.” That makes it pretty clear that he failed, even if he didn’t submit to a subsequent breath or blood test.

Breathalyzer trivia:

The breathalyzer has been around since the 50s. Prior to that time, a device was in use (in the late 30s and 40s) called the drunkometer.

Never would’ve guessed breathalyzers have been around that long. Was thinking maybe they came out in the late 1970s, and that it was the mid 1980s before widescale use by law enforcement.

Not only did the technology come out in the 50s, the actual machines we were using were built in the 50s. Until about 2005. Big clunky Breathalyzer 900a’s. In NJ we had to wait until State V. Chun was worked through before the science behind the newer machines had standing in court.

I’ve always wondered about the legality of these forced stop sobriety check points and if they’ve ever been legally challenged on the basis of being a nuisance. What if the 20 minute delay makes you miss a flight out of town, or getting to a hospital to perform a surgery or something else? In fact, perhaps it was your excitement because of the delay that made the cop pick you and he refused to listen to your excuse despite you waiving the airline ticket in front of him. What then?

I had a cop pull me over a few months ago when I turned right on a green arrow at a T-intersection. He was waiting at the opposite junction of the T and pulled up behind claiming I ran a red light because I made a right turn without stopping. The cop couldn’t see the arrow from where he was. However, my wife, my friend, and I all saw the green arrow and told the officer he was mistaken. He then asked if any of us had been drinking and proceeded to have me do the ‘follow my finger’ sobriety test. No one in the car had been drinking and I told him that. He then told us lots of people were heading that way for a concert and there had been a lot of drunk drivers in the area. What I thought was strange was the fact that the cop literally lied about his reason for pulling us over so he could randomly give me a sobriety test. If I had really run the red light as he said, which is why he pulled me over, why did I not get a ticket for that independent of the fact I wasn’t drunk? Don’t get me wrong, as I’m not complaining, but this just seemed like a random fishing expedition on his part based on nothing.

You are not required by law to submit tp field sobriety tests, including a field breathalyzer. Show your license and registration, then say, “Am I under arrest? Am I free to go?” If they wish to continue, they will arrest you and take you in for a breathalyzer. That is the only test you can be punished for refusing.

Same thing here. There’s no “field tests”. The police makes you “blow into the bag”, and if it’s positive, you’re taken to the police station for a blood test. You don’t even need to leave your car (if you’ve actually been sober, that is).

I wonder if the USA is the only country that still does ‘field sobriety tests’? Everywhere else in the western world, breathalysers are the norm, coupled with blood tests to confirm a positive reading. Seeing sheriffs making people walk along the white line and touch their nose etc on those Cops-type shows always seems kind of archaic.