Chemical tests in California DUI cases: know the differences

On behalf of The Law Offices of Michael L. Davidson posted in DUI on Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

There are several different types of chemical tests designed to determine blood-alcohol content for drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most common test is a breath test. This test is often referred to as a breathalyzer test after the machine used to administer it.

Blood tests are also often used. But the authority of law enforcement officers to compel those tests without a warrant is currently being challenged in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, Missouri v. McNeely, patrol officers forced a driver who refused a breath test to submit to a blood test.

The issue of breath test refusal is of course an important one in California DUI cases. When deciding whether to agree to such a test, make sure you are clear on exactly which type of breath test it is.

One type of breath test is called the PAS, which is an abbreviation for preliminary alcohol screening test. It is administered by a handheld breathalyzer in the field. Legally, it is not considered a formal chemical test – and you can refuse to take it.

If you are placed under arrest for DUI in California, however, by law you have to take a chemical test. Due to recent legislative changes, urine tests are no longer available. The bill that made this change, AB 2020, also specified that if the arrest is for driving under the influence of drugs, a blood test is required.

But what if both drugs and alcohol are suspected in a DUI arrest? In that case, the person who is arrested has the choice of taking either a blood test or a breath test.

Keep in mind that such tests are mandatory only if a valid arrest has already occurred. The removal of the option to take a urine test does not change that at all.

Source: “Understanding changes to AB 2020,” Mobile News, 2-13-13

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The Law Offices of Michael L. Davidson
411 Borel Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94402

Phone: 650-573-8000
Fax: 650-345-9875
San Mateo Law Office