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Alcohol breath test results thrown out in DUI case

In many drunk driving cases, prosecutors rely on alcohol breath tests as a key piece of evidence. However, motorists in South Carolina and throughout the rest of the country must realize that if police officers do not follow legal procedure in administering such tests, they cannot be held against the accused.

This is proving true in Columbia, South Carolina, where a judge recently threw out the results of an alcohol breath test as evidence in a DUI case. Not only that, but the latest court proceedings could change the way that lawyers choose to challenge drunk driving charges against their clients.

A police officer in Columbia administered an alcohol breath test to a suspect and told that suspect to blow hard into the machine. The officer instructed the suspect to do this several times.

The commands to blow hard were misguided, as the instructions for the testing machines specifically advise against it. Some argue that blowing hard into the breath test could produce inaccurate results.

In the suspect's DUI case, a municipal judge cited the flawed instructions by the officer when he decided the test results could not be used as evidence.

Some attorneys helping motorists fend off drunk driving charges might now examine how their clients were instructed during an alcohol breath test.

Alcohol breath tests use infrared light to absorb air from a suspect's mouth and test it for the presence of alcohol. Because blood alcohol content is best gauged by deep lung air, police are told to instruct suspects to take a breath and exhale into the machine as long as they can.

Punishments tied to drunk driving can have a huge effect on an offender's life. They could be forced to hand over their driver's license, pay steep fines or even spend time in jail. Those charged with such crimes can choose to defend themselves in a jury trial. A focal point for such a defense can include whether or not police officers followed procedure when testing a driver for alcohol consumption.

Source: The State, "Breath test thrown out in Columbia DUI," Noelle Phillips, March 12, 2013

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