Breath Test (Alco-Sensor) v. Chemical Test (Breathalyzer)

White Plains, New York DWI Attorneys

Breath Test (Alco-Sensor) v. Chemical Test (Breathalyzer)Many drivers do not understand the testing process performed when a person is suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Due to this lack of understanding drivers may be charged with a refusal to take tests because they make ill-informed decisions regarding the similarities and capabilities of such tests.

When a driver is pulled over because they are suspected of driving while intoxicated, the police officer administers a breath-screening test, referred to as the Alco-Sensor Test. This test is simply a preliminary test that determines whether or not there is a presence of alcohol in the person’s breath.  It is not reliable enough to determine the concentration of alcohol in the suspect’s blood. Because of their unreliability, Alco-Sensor Test results are not admissible at a trial. Instead, they are merely used to help establish probable cause for a DWI arrest.

Once the suspect of a DWI has been arrested and taken to the precinct, they are asked to take a second test. This test is a chemical test of the breath, blood, urine, and/or saliva. To perform these tests officers use instruments such as the Breathalyzer, DataMaster, Intoxilyzer, or AlcoTest. These tests determine the suspect’s blood alcohol level and determine whether or not the driver is over the legal level (.08). Chemical tests are much more reliable and accurate than the “breath tests” and, therefore, they are admissible in court.

Since many drivers are unaware of the difference between the “breath test” and the “chemical test”, they become confused when the police officer asks them if they would take the chemical test after their arrest. As a result of their confusion, suspects may not take the second test because they believe they have already taken it. If the suspect does not take the chemical test, it is seen as a refusal and they may experience repercussions because of that refusal.

It is imperative to understand the difference between “breath tests” and “chemical tests” in order to make informed decisions as to whether or not taking the chemical test is in one's best interest. In some cases, refusing to take the chemical test can be the better choice for a driver depending on their situation and the severity of the crime they face.  Understanding the DWI testing system is the first step to avoiding unnecessary conviction.

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If you or a loved one has been charged with a DWI crime, please contact the DWI attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC.
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