Police Officer Gave Wrong Instructions, Breathalyzer Evidence Thrown Out in DUI Case
A Columbia police officer failed to properly instruct a suspect in how to use a breathalyzer, so the evidence will be thrown out of the DUI case.
Columbia Municipal Judge Steedley Bogan issued the order on Friday, March 8th, that the breathalyzer results could not be used in court. According to reports, the police officer told the suspect to “blow hard,” which instructions for the breathalyzers specifically warn against.
Reportedly, the officer repeated the instruction to “blow hard” several times while the suspect was stopped for DUI. This could invalidate the evidence, because some experts believe that uneven breaths can alter the results of the DUI test.
The judge’s ruling could have an impact on other DUI cases later. While Judge Bogan’s ruling does not apply to other jurisdictions, defense attorneys might begin to look at how the breathalyzer test was issued as part of their clients’ DUI defense.
Law enforcement officers in South Carolina use only one kind of breathalyzer machine – the Datamaster – and they are trained to use it in a certain way and provide instructions to DUI suspects. The Datamaster uses infrared light to test particle absorption of air in a suspect’s mouth. Different substances, including ethanol in alcoholic beverages, absorb light differently. According to the Datamaster instructions, the best air to test is “deep lung air,” and the best way to obtain that air for the test is for the DUI suspect to take deep, even breaths, and exhale as long as possible – not as hard as possible – into the machine.
After Judge Bogan’s order was released, the city’s legal staff sent a notice to the Columbia Police Department. However, a spokesperson for the police department, could not discuss the content of the notice. For now, however, there are no plans to retrain officers.
Breathalyzer Test Results As Evidence in South Carolina DUI Cases
Officers often use breathalyzers to establish probable cause in order to bring DUI suspects in for blood testing at a local hospital. While many experts have concerns about the accuracy of breathalyzers, they are used frequently when officers stop DUI suspects.
However, police officers must follow a specific procedure to administer the test.
- South Carolina law dictates that the police officer’s video camera must begin videotaping as soon as the officer turns the blue lights on.
- Prior to administering the breathalyzer test the officer must have read and provided the implied consent notice, stating the consequences of a refusal to submit to a blood test, urine test, or breath test. Learn more about challenging breathalyzer tests.
- Roadside or field sobriety tests (FST) must have been properly administered, for the result to be used in court. Inaccuracies with FSTs are widespread and commonly challenged. Learn more aboutchallenging field sobriety tests.
Hire a DUI Lawyer to Challenge Your Breathalyzer Test
The criminal defense lawyers at the Strom Law Firm, LLC provide a free consultation to discuss the facts of a DUI case. Founded by a former U.S. Attorney, the team at Strom Law also includes a former Public Defender, and a former Assistant Attorney General and Richland County Assistant Solicitor. It’s awarded the highest Martindale-Hubble ranking and collectively holds more than 50 years of complex litigation experience. Contact us today for help with your DUI case. 803.252.4800.