CRIMINAL DEFENSE • DISCIPLINARY INVESTIGATIONS & HEARINGS

What are the differences between breath tests and chemical tests?

Posted November 13, 2014

It is a well-known fact that driving while intoxicated above the limit of .08 percent is illegal. However, the laws concerning breathalyzers and breath test refusal are often misunderstood. Law enforcement officials are well-informed regarding New York state laws and drivers should be educated about the intricacies of breathalyzer tests as well.

If an individual is pulled over and suspected of a DWI, the officer can perform a test to determine the blood-alcohol content of the driver. This is commonly referred to as a breathalyzer test. However, there are typically two types of tests to determine an individual’s BAC: the breath test and the chemical test. The breath test is usually performed on the side of the road, after the driver has been pulled over. This initial test is used to determine if the driver is above the legal BAC limit of .08 percent. If the breath test indicates an illegal BAC, the driver may be arrested. Then, a chemical test may be performed. This test still involves blowing air into a machine, but it is a more accurate test for BAC that takes a sample of air from the lungs of the individual.

The chemical test is a more accurate measurement of an individual’s BAC, and is the measurement cited in court. While the breath test is preliminary and known to be less accurate, refusal of this test may not be in the individual’s best interest.

It is important for drivers to understand the differences in breathalyzer tests. If you or someone you know has been pulled over under suspicion of DWI and taken a breath test or a chemical test in violation of the law, you should contact an attorney to review your rights and potential legal courses of action.

Source: Driving Laws.org, “New York DWI/DUI, Refusal to Take a Blood, Breath or Urine Test,” accessed on Nov. 10, 2014

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