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Chemical Tests for Alcohol

Chemical testing involves testing the blood, breath or urine of a suspected drunk driver. The purpose is for law enforcement to determine the individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If the test results register the driver’s BAC at or above the legal limit, the driver will be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). The legal limit throughout all of California is Chemical Tests0.08 percent. Besides using chemical testing for driving under the influence, chemical testing is useful for those drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence of drugs (DUID).

Anyone driving on California public roadways (streets, roads, highways, interstates, etc.) has given their permission for their blood, breath, or urine to be tested to determine their BAC if arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. The permission falls under the “implied consent” law, which means a driver has consented without directly giving authorization. Drivers give their permission for chemical testing when they apply for a California driver’s license. For out-of-state drivers, they grant permission for chemical testing by driving in California.

In order for an officer to request you take a chemical test, they must be suspicious you are intoxicated. The officer must have observed you driving erratically or in such a way that made them suspicious you were driving under the influence. The officer should watch your driving behavior for at least 15 minutes, and then pull you over to the side of the road. Once on the roadside, the officer continues to observe you and your physical appearance, including while they talk to you in your car, out of your car, and during a field sobriety test if you agreed to take the test. All the time the officer is watching for signs you are intoxicated. If the officer decides there are enough indicators you are impaired, they will arrest you for drunk driving.

Chemical testing occurs after the arrest. It is more accurate than field sobriety tests and law enforcement observations. Chemical testing is mandatory as well, whereas field sobriety test are voluntary. A driver may rightfully decline to take a field sobriety test without any consequences, not so with chemical testing. Since chemical testing is mandatory, the courts and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) place a high importance on them. Refusing to take a chemical test will result in more severe punishments from both the courts and the DMV.

Blood testing is the most accurate, although not the most practical. If a blood test is used, there are state regulations regarding whom and where the blood sample can be taken. Law enforcement agencies must follow those regulations. For example, an officer would have to take the suspected driver to a medical facility to have blood drawn by qualified medical personnel. Blood testing is the only direct test of someone’s blood alcohol level. The other tests, breath and urine, are estimations based on how alcohol behaves in the human body.

Typically urine test are no longer used. However, there are certain conditions where a urine test is necessary instead of a breath or blood test. Those conditions are the driver is under a medical doctor’s care for a heart condition and is using anticoagulant medication; the driver is a hemophiliac; for some reason blood or breath samples were unavailable. As with the blood testing, the driver will need to go to an appropriate facility.

Most individuals arrested for DUI took a breath test at the police station after the arrest. Most police departments in California have a breathalyzer device and have been trained on how to administrator the tests. With any of the chemical tests, if the results are 0.08 percent or higher the driver is considered legally intoxicated and charged with drunk driving. It is worth noting again, the legal limit in California is 0.08%.

If you have been arrested for drunk driving, it is vital for you to consult with a qualified DUI lawyer regardless of the results from a chemical test. A DUI lawyer has the experience and the knowledge to challenge the findings from any of the chemical tests from many angles. Do not mistakenly believe you have no defense.

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