Before And After An Arrest: Breath And Blood Testing

A police officer will administer a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) if he/she believes you may have been drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs. A PBT is administered at the roadside via a handheld device. This is a small, portable machine carried by most cops in their patrol car. Before or after the PBT, the police officer or deputy might request that you take various Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) to determine whether or not you are actually intoxicated.  


Preliminary Breath Tests (PBT) on the Roadside


PBTs are done by a device with a mouthpiece used to preliminary measure the amount of alcohol (ethanol) present in the driver’s body. The device quickly analyzes the breath and displays the body alcohol content on a digital display. This is not a super accurate breath test, and the results of the breath test are typically not admissible as evidence in court.


However, this is a quick way to determine body alcohol content and, in Michigan, the result of this test on its own is enough to arrest you for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). In other words, it provides probable cause for an arrest or at least for the cop to get a search warrant to have a blood test done.


If an officer pulls you over for drunk driving, you are allowed to refuse the PBT. However, refusing a PBT is a civil infraction (not a crime). This is like getting a speeding ticket, only you won’t get points on your license for the pre-arrest refusal of a PBT. Likewise, you do not have to participate in any field sobriety testing. Refusing the FST isn’t even a civil infraction. In fact, much of the time, it’s pretty smart to politely refuse the PBT and the FST test.



Chemical Breath / Blood Tests and Implied Consent


Driving in Michigan means that you are giving “implied consent.” The implied consent law says that driving on Michigan roads means that you are agreeing to submit to a post-arrest chemical test – so long as the police officer has legal ground for the initial stop and probable cause for the arrest, and assuming the officer reads you your Chemical Test Rights.


In other words, you are not allowed to refuse a chemical breath or blood test after your arrest. Refusing the breath test or blood test will likely result in a driver’s license suspension of a minimum of one year. Refusal will probably also result in an addition of six (6) points on your driving record.


When the police officer, trooper or deputy reads you the Chemical Test Rights, he / she will tell you that the results of any and all chemical test could be used against you in court.


The breath test machine that is used here in Michigan is called a DataMaster machine. (We don’t use the Breathalyzer machine here.) The DataMaster is mostly kept at police stations and/or county jails. Again, refusing to take this (after arrest) breath or blood test will probably get your driver’s license automatically suspended and get 6 points added to your operator’s license.  There are some rare exceptions to that rule such as for those with hemophilia.


If you are arrested for drunk driving or for drugged driving, the arresting officer can seize your Michigan license and give a temporary paper license. This could mean that, until the case is resolved in court, you will have to use a 625g paper permit instead of your license. In addition, if you were operating anything other than a commercial motor vehicle, the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) will suspend your operator’s license or permit to drive, or nonresident operating privilege.


This suspension could last for one year, or it could last for two years if this is your second or subsequent time refusing a chemical test in the past seven years. Fighting these “refusal cases” is difficult and is a completely separate legal process from the criminal drunk driving case.


While You’re Interacting With the Arresting Officer


If you are pulled over in Michigan, there are certain actions you can take to try to help make the situation better for yourself. First, you can refuse the pre-arrest PBT and let the officer issue you a civil infraction ticket.


You should also not answer any questions about where you are coming from or going to, what kind of alcohol you drank, how much you’ve had to drink or the time that you last drank. If you do not have your attorney present, simply provide the basic information: your name and address.


Always remember to be polite and respectful to the police officer pulling you over. They are just doing their jobs. You might have to wait longer to contact your lawyer, but you should always try to be courteous with the officer. You don’t need to explain yourself or start an argument. You almost never win an argument with a cop so don’t try. Stay calm, quiet and courteous.


Call an experienced drunk driving attorney the first moment you can, and wait until the attorney is able to arrive. You should feel safe to explain everything to your attorney but not to anybody else. To receive some of the best legal counsel and representation, call The Kronzek Firm today at 866-766-5245. (1 866-7NoJail) Our drunk driving defense team has more than a quarter century of experience. We’ve helped hundreds of people here in Michigan and we can help you too. We are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  


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