The importance of checking breath test records following a DUI arrest

Recently I saw an article from Wenatchee, WA discussing how a breath test in a DUI case over there got suppressed due to Officer error. Apparently the arresting Officer had the defendant blow seven times in two different breath test machines in order to produce a result. The Chelan County District Court Judge found the breath test results were tarnished due to the Officers action, and for failing to observe the subject for at least 15 minutes in prior to the test. So why is this news you ask, you’re probably thinking something like this happens every day throughout the United States?

Well this got me thinking about how important it is to check the breath test records following a DUI arrest. Just to double check everything was done correctly by the Police Officer, and to ensure everything happened the way it did. Now I haven’t read the police report in this Wenatchee case but it sounds like the Officer may not have mentioned these seven attempts. Probably just submitted the one breath test ticket and wrote in the police narrative the results were .15/.16.

If that was the case then it sounds eerily similar to a case I had last year. In that case the arresting Officer administered a breath test to my client. The first attempt came back invalid. The officer then immediately made a second attempt and that produced a breath test reading. So what is the big deal you ask? According to the breath test manual if one breath test results in an invalid sample then the Operator or the police officer in this case is to wait 15 minutes prior to administering another breath test. When the police officer in my case did not do that, that made the breath test results inadmissible.

Now the reason I bring this up is because the arresting officer made no mention of the invalid breath test sample in the police report. In fact he provided the breath test ticket showing a valid result had been given and nothing else. Had I not checked the breath test records of the particular breath test machine my client used I never would have known about the invalid sample, and never would have gotten the breath test results suppressed. As a Seattle DUI Attorney this is a pretty basic discovery tool to use, but I’m often surprised at the number of so called DUI Lawyers out there that don’t investigate past records or are not familiar they even exist.

Once you know the breath test machine or the Datamaster number then you can view all the breath tests given after a DUI arrest. Just go to the Washington State Patrol website and plug it in. It is very simple to do and as the two examples above indicate it is necessary in order to properly investigate and put forth a DUI defense.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle, WA. He is currently rated as one of the best Seattle DUI Attorneys by Avvo, and was recently named a Rising Star in DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine. An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys in Washington State receive.