Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney

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Posts made in January, 2015

By on Jan 15, 2015 in Communication, Criminal, Department of Licensing, DUI, Police | 3 comments

There are two breath tests. Does that sound simple? Many, many drivers across Washington make a mistake when stopped by the police because they do not realize there are two breath tests. Some of my clients are among those people, and my job gets a lot harder when they treat one breath test like the other. So today let’s put the ambiguity to bed and explain the differences between the two breath tests. There are a lot of differences between the tests, including purpose and technology, as I’ll get into a moment. But the easiest way to tell them apart is simply to look where the particular test is being administered. Is a test being administered on the side of the road via handheld device? That’s the PBT. Have you been transported to a police station and are blowing into a larger machine? That’s the DataMaster. The PBT The PBT stands for “Preliminary Breath Test” (although it’s often referred to, even by police, as the “portable breath test.”) The PBT is a handheld device that police carry with them to determine your breath alcohol concentration on the side of the road (but more about that in a second). It looks like this:   The use of the PBT is approved by statute but there are a lot of rules and restrictions on its use. The important one is here and because it says lots of interesting things, I’ll unpack it a bit. The first is that the sole purpose of the PBT is to establish probable cause to arrest. Probable cause, defined essentially as a reasonable belief that a crime has occurred, is the prerequisite to a lot of other things like obtaining warrants and arresting people. A defendant is very happy when there is no probable cause to do X, where X is the action the police officer took (or wants to take). The probable cause requirement is what keeps police from arresting people for any reason or no reason. There has to be some basis, and that basis is what the courts call probable cause. Because the PBT is only used to establish probable cause, it is not admissible for any other purpose. The results can be admitted at a...

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