Breath & Blood Tests for a Quincy OUI Charge

Understanding the Science Behind Breath & Blood Tests

In Massachusetts and all across the nation, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Under Massachusetts State law, you are expected to submit to a chemical test if a police officer has probable cause to believe that you are operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs. However, you have the right to refuse these tests.

Under the "Implied Consent" law, you are essentially giving your permission to take a blood or breath test for the purpose of determining if you were drunk driving. When you accept your driver's license, you are agreeing to submit to a blood or breath test when an officer asks you to take one. The law provides an exemption for diabetics, hemophiliacs, and people that take anticoagulants – these people don't have to take a blood test.

If you refuse to submit to a breath or blood test or if you register above the legal limit, the police officer is required to take your license away on the spot. Speak with a qualified and knowledgeable Quincy OUI attorney right away if you have found yourself in this situation.

Issues with Blood Testing

In 1933 congress finally ended a decade of prohibition. Since anti-drinking and driving laws were non-existent, drunk drivers wreaked havoc on America's roadways. As a result impaired driving started to receive national attention as automobiles grew in popularity. Since drunk driving laws were in the infantile stages, police officers needed a reliable tool to collect biological evidence for testing blood alcohol concentration that did not require a medical doctor be present. Fast forward to present day, these days law enforcement officers and prosecutors around the nation rely heavily on breath alcohol testing to investigate and secure OUI convictions. In order to accomplish this, they rely primarily on breath testing devices such as the widely used Draeger's Alcotest 7110.

While breath testing is used primarily to detect a driver's BAC, blood testing is used as well; however, it is considered to be more invasive, time consuming and expensive. One concern with blood tests is that they typically withdraw venous blood, which is considered to be less reflective of the driver's actual impairment as compared to arterial blood under certain conditions. Also, the person who withdraws the blood must be a trained technician and sometimes it's less convenient for police officers to find doctors and nurses to withdraw the blood, and it can be more difficult to get them to attend evidentiary hearings or trials. Typically, testing someone's BAC by means of a breath testing device is more preferable in OUI cases and is therefore the testing method of choice.

History of the Breath Test

The first breath test to enter the scene was the Breathalyzer. Dr. Robert Borkenstein was the pioneer that invented the Breathalyzer in 1954, and by 1973, every state had enacted their own Implied Consent Laws. In order to understand how these breath testing devices work, it's important to understand how the body metabolizes alcohol.

Alcohol enters the body through oral ingestion of an alcoholic beverage. The alcohol enters the bloodstream through the stomach and the small intestine by what is called simple diffusion. The blood transports the alcohol to the bodily tissues. The veins carry the blood to the lungs where the blood becomes oxygenated. From that point, the arteries carry the oxygen-rich blood to the brain and the rest of the body.

Lung tissue is made up of air pockets (alveoli) that are surrounded by rich membranes. A percentage of the alcohol circulating in the blood will cross the membranes and evaporate into the air pockets (alveoli). When the person exhales, air is forced out of the alveoli where it is expressed from the lungs into the breath. The highest concentration of alcohol is found in the deepest portion of the lungs, where the air is closest to the blood. Once the person exhales, the "deep" lung air leaves the lungs. These breath testing devices are designed to measure the person's blood alcohol concentration that is drawn from deep within the person's lungs.

Challenging Blood Alcohol Evidence

Whether the suspect underwent a breath or a blood test, neither of these tests is infallible. All such blood or breath testing procedures are susceptible to human error, procedural errors and mechanical malfunctions. Breath testing techniques are expected to strive for accuracy and precision, and they are expected to stand up to rigorous scientific expectations; therefore, manufacturers and law enforcement agencies must take specific steps to ensure the accuracy of these tests. For example, blood alcohol testing devices must hold up to

  1. Administrative rules such as accurate records documenting testing of each device
  2. Proper calibration and maintenance

When people are arrested for OUI, they face criminal charges and penalties including increased insurance premiums, court fines and driver's license suspension. As a result, many OUI defense attorneys litigate these types of cases. One effective way to dispute an OUI is to challenge the reliability and admissibility of breath and blood test evidence. Those defendants who hire an attorney to fight their charges have a significantly higher chance of getting an acquittal than those who accept their charges.

As an experienced Hingham OUI attorney over the years I have developed creative and innovative ways to challenge blood alcohol evidence, and in many cases I have been able to get my clients' charges reduced if not dropped. If you or someone you love has been arrested for OUI in Quincy, Weymouth or the greater South Shore area, I strongly urge you to contact a Quincy OUI lawyer to find out how I can help you challenge any evidence collected against you.

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