A sequence of events will occur during a DUI stop. A suspect tested, arrested and finally processed. The timing and order of these events will depend upon the circumstances of your case.
Some DUI investigations take just a few minutes, while others take hours.
Several Factors Could Prolong Your DUI Investigation
These factors include:
- If an accident occurred, your investigation will move slower.
- Submitting to physical sobriety exercises, these will take anywhere from about 5 minutes to upwards of 30 minutes.
- If the officer that stopped you waits for other officers to arrive as backup or to assist.
The longer your investigation takes, the more time there will be between your driving and the DUI chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine.
Does It really Matter When You Take the DUI Chemical Test
The answer is yes. It does matter and can have a significant impact on the result of the alcohol test, and therefore your case.
People feel affects of alcohol differently and at different times. Each person absorbs and eliminates alcohol at a unique rate.
The amount and type of alcohol you consumed, whether and when you last had a meal, what medications you are taking, your height, weight, age, gender, health history, etc. are all relevant factors.
Many people mistakenly believe they will pass a breath test if a few hours have passed since their last drink. This may or may not be the case, depending on where you are in the alcohol curve. It takes some people up to four hours to fully absorb their alcohol before they even start exclusively eliminating alcohol from their system.
Why Does Timing of the Chemical Test Matter From a Legal Standpoint
Prosecutors used to be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) was above the legal limit.
One way to prove BAC is to use the results of your breath, blood, and/or urine sample. But because these samples are always collected at some point after you have already been pulled over and sometimes hours later, all they really show is what your BAC level was at the time you took the test, not when you were actually driving.
Thus prosecutors had to prove their case with complex math - using your chemical test result and retrograde extrapolation, a term that really just means estimating backwards to determine your BAC at time of driving. Though in most states, the prosecution is no longer required to prove retrograde extrapolation, some states will allow defense attorneys to refer to it to help prove your innocence. The best DUI lawyers use mathematics and scientific principles to attack the validity, accuracy and admissibility of your result.
While each state is different, today every state does still require its prosecutors to meet a minimum level of criteria for the admissibility of chemical tests, including strict adherence to any time constraints. Many states have time limits on testing.
Others states determine admissibility on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances and the reasonableness of the testing. The longer it is between the stop and test, the more unreasonable and unreliable the results will be. Be sure to check your local laws to determine your jurisdiction's time limit.
Failure of the police to follow the time procedures challenged in court. Your test can be used against you even if a lengthy amount of time has passed. Contact an experienced DUI attorney in your state, city, or county for more information.
Observation or Deprivation Periods in DUI Chemical Test Cases
There are limits on chemical tests, how, when and where they are conducted.
The police will observe you during processing. At least one officer must be watching you at all times for the entire duration of the observation period.
Required time to ensure that vomiting, smoking, and consumption of food or beverage did not occur prior to testing. Such consumption could skew your results.
You can't put anything in your mouth including gum and candy. The time the observation began noted, typically on your breath card or in the police report. Double check the times on your reports. Be sure to point out any discrepancies or unusual circumstances that may have occurred to your DUI attorney.
Observation Period Duration
In addition to the observation period, some states have limits on the duration of the test itself. Remember that prosecutors have the burden of proving you were DUI, and do so using your chemical test results. For a chemical test to be admissible, it must be reliable.
You will need to blow into the breath machine more than once. States that admit more than one sample require that the results of each sample be within a certain time. The results must agree within a certain percentage or decimal range of each other.
Failure of the breath test operator to follow the time limits may help your DUI defense. Again, however, please note that such an error will not necessarily render your results inadmissible against you. Some states require one sample. Be sure to check the local laws of your jurisdiction and consult an experienced attorney for more information.