Portable Breath Tests. Anyone who has been a suspect or a Defendant in a Driving Under the Influence (read more about Pennsylvania DUI Charge here), or Underage Drinking (read more about Underage Drinking Charge here) case knows what the Portable Breath Test is. Almost all individuals charged with one of these crimes, recalls when the officer produced the hand held device that they were asked to blow in right before the police officer placed them in handcuffs.
Portable Breath Tests or PBT are devices that almost all police officers are equipped with. These devices permit officers to attempt to measure whether or not a suspect in a Driving Under the Influence case or Underage Drinking case has recently used or ingested alcohol. Recent case law in Pennsylvania, however, has brought to light just how unreliable these PBT devices are. So let’s examine the law in Pennsylvania concerning Portable Breath Tests and their admissibility:
Pennsylvania Courts have ruled that the government is not permitted to use the results obtained from PBT’s in the following circumstances:
1) As evidence that the Defendant was guilty of Driving Under the Influence. (Neither the jury nor Judge is permitted to hear the results of a PBT.);
2) As evidence that the Defendant was guilty of Underage Drinking, Public Drunkenness or any other criminal charge. (The Judge is not permitted to hear the results of PBT’s in assessing whether the Defendant committed one of these crimes.)
Pennsylvania Courts have ruled that the government is permitted to use the results obtained from PBT’s in the following circumstances:
1) In deciding whether or not a Defendant is still too drunk to be released from lockup after he was arrested for an alcohol related offense;
2) In deciding whether or not a police officer has probable cause to arrest a suspect for Driving Under the Influence and also in deciding whether or not there is enough probable cause to request that the accused consents to chemical testing such as a blood test or a certified Intoxilyzer Breath Test.
To read more about PA Criminal Procedure and DUI charges read: DUI cases and updates in Criminal Procedure