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New York Criminal Court Refuses to Allow Prosecution to Introduce Portable Breath Test Result at DUI Trial

Many of our clients who are charged in New York DWI cases are  confused by the differences in the two tests that they may have been offered by the police. Very  often, police officers will offer a portable breath test (PBT) to a motorist on the side of the road to help them determine whether there is probable cause to arrest someone for DWI.  The refusal to take such test is punishable by a traffic infraction which can result in 2 points being assessed on your driver’s license.  After a person is arrested for DWI they will be offered the opportunity to take a chemical test by either blood, breath or urine.  The refusal to take that test is very serious and can result in a revocation of a person’s driver’s license for a minimum period of one year.

Prosecutors seeking to introduce scientific or technical evidence in a criminal trial have a burden to prove that the evidence is reliable enough to put before a jury. Jurors are not expected to be familiar with the technical specifications of alcohol and drug testing equipment, and prosecutors must show that the methods used by law enforcement to obtain evidence are generally accepted by the relevant scientific community in order to introduce test results as evidence at trial. A New York criminal trial court recently published a decision denying a prosecutor’s request to admit the test results of a portable breath test (PBT) in a defendant’s DUI trial.

In the recently addressed case, the defendant was charged with a DUI offense after he was pulled over by law enforcement officers for violating traffic laws. After he was stopped and the officer claimed to observe signs of intoxication, officers administered a PBT to the defendant, which suggested his blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. As a result of the PBT results, the defendant was arrested and charged with a DUI. Notably, a second non-portable breath or blood test was not administered to the defendant while he was at the police station.

Before trial, the defendant filed a motion with the court seeking to exclude the results of the PBT test at trial. The defendant argued that PBT test results are not automatically admissible in a criminal trial to prove intoxication, as the reliability of such tests varies greatly and depends on the maintenance of the equipment and the method in which the test was administered. The defendant specifically pointed to the arresting officer’s statement that the defendant was only observed for two minutes before the test was administered.

The court ultimately granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the PBT test results. The court agreed with the defendant that such results are not automatically admissible and further found that the officer administering the test did not follow the guidelines to obtain an accurate result. Specifically, the court found that the officer should have directly observed the defendant for at least twenty minutes before administering the PBT test in order to rule out any inaccurate results stemming from the presence of alcohol in the defendant’s mouth. Because the police officer failed to follow the proper procedures in administering the PBT, the results will not be admitted as evidence against the defendant at trial. Without direct evidence that the defendant had a blood-alcohol level in excess of the legal limit, prosecutors will struggle to prove the elements of the DUI charge at trial.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney Who You Can Trust

If you have been charged with a DUI or other crime in New York, your case may not be as simple as it appears. Police officers and prosecutors often make mistakes in the course of a criminal investigation that discredit the evidence they may seek to use against you. With the help of a qualified New York criminal defense attorney from Tilem & Associates, you can confidently challenge the tactics of law enforcement and prosecutors, and possibly beat the charges against you. We represent clients charged with New York DUI cases, as well as other misdemeanor and felony offenses. To schedule a free consultation with one of our New York criminal defense attorneys, give us a call at 877-377-8666 or contact us through our website today.

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