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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Breath testing is just one part of a DUI case

Washington residents might be unaware of the true role a Breathalyzer plays in drunk driving convictions. A case does not necessarily hinge on the results of breath tests as they are not perfect and other evidence may be involved in a case.

When looking for drivers who may be under the influence of alcohol, there are 20 symptoms and driving patterns authorities keep an eye out for that serve as possible indicators of impairment that were compiled by the National Highway Traffic Administration. If an officer notices some of these driving patterns, they serve as probable cause to stop a vehicle and investigate. Video footage of a vehicle and an officer's sworn testimony are two key pieces of evidence that the prosecution could use in a DUI case.

A motorist's statements can also be used as evidence. This is why those who have consumed any alcoholic drinks may decline to answer an officer's questions without first consulting an attorney. Whether answering questions or not, it is important for drivers who have been pulled over to remain polite and calm when interacting with an officer as their demeanor is also admissible evidence.

The results of a Breathalyzer or another testing device can be used as evidence along with one's acceptance or refusal to take a test. Refusing may constitute "consciousness of guilt," and drivers who do not submit to testing can have their licenses suspended.

While breath testing can indicate a driver's level of intoxication, it's not considered to provide scientifically accurate evidence in court. Field sobriety tests, breath testing and blood testing all may be used when trying to identify drunk driving. When gathering evidence and administering these tests, there are rules that the authorities must follow. If something causes a test to be inaccurate or an officer does not follow the proper protocol, this could weaken the case against a driver.

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