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Chemical Testing for DUI in D.C.

Washington D.C has two types of breath tests. The first is the preliminary breath test (PBT), which is administered through a handheld breath-testing device and used at the scene prior to the arrest. The purpose of the PBT is to help the officer determine whether he has enough probable cause to make an arrest. However PBTs are not reliable and the D.C. code prohibits the prosecution from introducing evidence of PBT results in trial. The second type of breath testing is called evidentiary breath testing and is conducted after the arrest on a non-portable machine. Prior to administration of a breath test, a DUI suspect must be observed for at least 20 minutes prior to the test to ensure that nothing is ingested or placed into the mouth that could affect the validity of the test result. Two breath samples are then obtained and must be within a certain range from each other in order for the test result to be considered reliable and admissible in court. It is also required that the breath testing device be tested every three months to ensure they are working properly. Issues may arise as to the reliability of the results if the driver did ingest something prior to the test or the machine was not properly inspected.

Blood tests are always conducted in cases where an accident has occurred. Under D.C. law, only a physician or nurse acting at the request of a police officer are permitted to withdraw blood in DUI cases and two samples of blood are drawn. Persons who are unconscious are deemed to have impliedly consented to withdraw of blood because of D.C.’s Implied Consent law. If, however, a person who is unconscious has had his/her blood drawn and later on regains consciousness and objects, the blood will not be admissible as evidence.

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