Breath vs. Blood Test: Which Is Better for Your DUI Defense?

When facing a DUI charge, being well-informed about the strengths and limitations of chemical tests is crucial to building a solid defense strategy. Two of the most used tests are the breath (breathalyzer) and the blood test. While both aim to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), their methodology, accuracy, and potential impact on your defense differ.

Each test has its own set of advantages and drawbacks, which can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Knowing these factors empowers you and your legal team to make informed decisions and craft a defense strategy aligning with your circumstances.

If you are facing DUI charges, schedule a meeting with Lokken & Putnam, P.C. by calling (801) 829-9783 or submitting an online contact form. We proudly serve Salt Lake City.

Overview of DUI Tests

DUI chemical tests are used to determine the level of impairment and provide evidence to support arguments that a driver was violating the law. These tests serve as critical tools for the prosecution and the defense, with each side having its objectives.

The primary purpose of DUI tests is to measure BAC. By quantifying the amount of alcohol in a person's bloodstream, these tests aim to assess impairment levels objectively. They serve as crucial evidence that can either strengthen the prosecution's case or help the defense build a robust argument against the charges.

The two most common types of DUI tests are breath and blood tests.

Breath Tests

Breath tests work on the principle that alcohol in a person's bloodstream also circulates through the lungs. As a person exhales, some alcohol is expelled. Often referred to as breathalyzers, breath tests are conducted by having the driver blow into a device that measures the alcohol content in their breath.

The Advantages of Breath Tests

One of the notable advantages of breath tests is their non-invasive nature. Unlike blood tests that require a needle and blood sample extraction, breath tests involve blowing into a device. This makes them more convenient and less intrusive for the individuals being tested.

Additionally, breath tests provide immediate results, which can be valuable for law enforcement officers at the scene and individuals who want to know their BAC quickly. The immediate feedback allows for more timely decision-making and can help determine if further testing or actions are necessary.

Potential Challenges with Breath Tests

While breath tests estimate BAC, they are not always 100% accurate.

Various factors can influence the results, including the following:

  • The presence of mouth alcohol, which refers to alcohol lingering in the mouth and not necessarily representing the true alcohol concentration in the bloodstream.
  • The timing of food consumption, as a person who has not eaten in a while may have a higher BAC reading.
  • Technical issues with the breath test devices themselves, which can introduce inaccuracies.

Blood Tests

In DUI cases, blood tests are essential for determining a person's BAC. The process begins when a police officer requests an authorized person, typically a medical professional, to draw a blood sample for DUI testing. This sample is then sent to a laboratory where it undergoes analysis to determine the individual's BAC level.

Accuracy and Reliability of Blood Tests

blood tests are generally considered more precise than breath tests. Unlike breath tests that estimate BAC based on the amount of alcohol traveling through the bloodstream and exiting through the breath, blood tests directly measure the alcohol concentration in the blood. This direct measurement provides a more accurate and reliable assessment of a person's BAC.

Potential Drawbacks of Blood Tests

Blood tests require the involvement of a trained professional to draw the blood sample following the requirements outlined in Utah Code § 41-6a-523. This adds a layer of complexity and may introduce challenges if proper protocols are not followed.

Another potential drawback of blood tests is the time it takes to obtain results. After the blood sample is collected, it must be transported to a laboratory. The analysis process may take some time, resulting in delayed results compared to the immediate feedback provided by breath tests.

Additionally, factors such as the following could affect the results:

  • Calibration errors in the testing machine.
  • Improper handling of the specimen during transportation and storage.
  • Mistakes made when taking the blood sample.

Which Test Will Be Administered?

In Utah, the choice of the test is not up to the driver but at the discretion of the arresting officer, as outlined in Utah Code § 41-6a-520.

Whether a breath test or a blood test is administered, it's crucial to recognize that potential problems can arise with either that may impact the accuracy of the results. As discussed earlier, both tests have advantages, limitations, and potential issues. Inaccurate results can provide opportunities for a strategic defense to be developed.

Crafting robust arguments concerning the chemical test results requires a careful review of the specific circumstances of your case. It's important not to be discouraged if you were directed to participate in one test over another. Instead, discuss your case with a knowledgeable defense lawyer who can thoroughly analyze the evidence, identify potential problems or weaknesses in the test results, and build a strong defense strategy tailored to your situation.

Remember, the test administered does not solely determine the outcome of your case. Other crucial factors, such as the overall evidence, procedural errors, and the skillful presentation of your defense, can all play significant roles in pursuing a favorable outcome.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Firm

At Lokken & Putnam, P.C., our attorneys are adept at DUI defense. We understand the complexities of the legal system and can guide you through the process to seek a just result. Our extensive knowledge and insights allow us to assess the circumstances surrounding an arrest and discuss how to proceed.

To speak with a member of our Salt Lake City team, contact us at (801) 829-9783.