Breath Tests

Admissibility of the breath test (in Washington State, law enforcement utilizes the BAC Datamaster and BAC Datamaster CDM machines to test your breath - I often challenge the admissibility of the breath tests or blood tests results on procedural and administration grounds - that is, did the officer follow the protocols such as following a 15 minute observation period, did the officer check your mouth prior to the test, did the officer change mouthpieces for each test, did you put anything in your mouth, such as your fingers, drink any water, vomit, etc.  did you have any foreign substance in your mouth, such as a tongue ring, tobacco, gum, etc., was there an incomplete or invalid sample, did the machine have its Quality Assurance Procedure (QAP) conducted within the last year, was the simulator solution changed in the last 60 days, etc.).  There are numerous other defenses a seasoned DUI attorney must look for when evaluating whether a breath test was performed properly and I do this on each and every case.

RCW 46.61.506

Persons under influence of intoxicating liquor or drug — Evidence — Tests — Information concerning tests.

(1) Upon the trial of any civil or criminal action or proceeding arising out of acts alleged to have been committed by any person while driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, if the person's alcohol concentration is less than 0.08 or the person's THC concentration is less than 5.00, it is evidence that may be considered with other competent evidence in determining whether the person was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.

     (2)(a) The breath analysis of the person's alcohol concentration shall be based upon grams of alcohol per two hundred ten liters of breath.

     (b) The blood analysis of the person's THC concentration shall be based upon nanograms per milliliter of whole blood.

     (c) The foregoing provisions of this section shall not be construed as limiting the introduction of any other competent evidence bearing upon the question whether the person was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.

     (3) Analysis of the person's blood or breath to be considered valid under the provisions of this section or RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504 shall have been performed according to methods approved by the state toxicologist and by an individual possessing a valid permit issued by the state toxicologist for this purpose. The state toxicologist is directed to approve satisfactory techniques or methods, to supervise the examination of individuals to ascertain their qualifications and competence to conduct such analyses, and to issue permits which shall be subject to termination or revocation at the discretion of the state toxicologist.

     (4)(a) A breath test performed by any instrument approved by the state toxicologist shall be admissible at trial or in an administrative proceeding if the prosecution or department produces prima facie evidence of the following:

     (i) The person who performed the test was authorized to perform such test by the state toxicologist;

     (ii) The person being tested did not vomit or have anything to eat, drink, or smoke for at least fifteen minutes prior to administration of the test;

     (iii) The person being tested did not have any foreign substances, not to include dental work, fixed or removable, in his or her mouth at the beginning of the fifteen-minute observation period;

     (iv) Prior to the start of the test, the temperature of any liquid simulator solution utilized as an external standard, as measured by a thermometer approved of by the state toxicologist was thirty-four degrees centigrade plus or minus 0.3 degrees centigrade;

     (v) The internal standard test resulted in the message "verified";

     (vi) The two breath samples agree to within plus or minus ten percent of their mean to be determined by the method approved by the state toxicologist;

     (vii) The result of the test of the liquid simulator solution external standard or dry gas external standard result did lie between .072 to .088 inclusive; and

     (viii) All blank tests gave results of .000.

     (b) For purposes of this section, "prima facie evidence" is evidence of sufficient circumstances that would support a logical and reasonable inference of the facts sought to be proved. In assessing whether there is sufficient evidence of the foundational facts, the court or administrative tribunal is to assume the truth of the prosecution's or department's evidence and all reasonable inferences from it in a light most favorable to the prosecution or department.

     (c) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prevent the subject of the test from challenging the reliability or accuracy of the test, the reliability or functioning of the instrument, or any maintenance procedures. Such challenges, however, shall not preclude the admissibility of the test once the prosecution or department has made a prima facie showing of the requirements contained in (a) of this subsection. Instead, such challenges may be considered by the trier of fact in determining what weight to give to the test result.

     (5) When a blood test is administered under the provisions of RCW 46.20.308, the withdrawal of blood for the purpose of determining its alcoholic or drug content may be performed only by a physician, a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse, a nursing assistant as defined in chapter 18.88A RCW, a physician assistant as defined in chapter 18.71A RCW, a first responder as defined in chapter 18.73 RCW, an emergency medical technician as defined in chapter 18.73 RCW, a health care assistant as defined in chapter 18.135 RCW, or any technician trained in withdrawing blood. This limitation shall not apply to the taking of breath specimens.

     (6) The person tested may have a physician, or a qualified technician, chemist, registered nurse, or other qualified person of his or her own choosing administer one or more tests in addition to any administered at the direction of a law enforcement officer. The test will be admissible if the person establishes the general acceptability of the testing technique or method. The failure or inability to obtain an additional test by a person shall not preclude the admission of evidence relating to the test or tests taken at the direction of a law enforcement officer.

     (7) Upon the request of the person who shall submit to a test or tests at the request of a law enforcement officer, full information concerning the test or tests shall be made available to him or her or his or her attorney.

About the author:
Nathan Webb, is a seasoned Seattle DUI Lawyer.  His practice emphasizes DUI defense.  He has been repeatedly recognized as one of Seattle's Best Attorneys! He was recognized as a Top Seattle DUI Attorneys by Seattle Met Magazine, Repeatedly named a Super Lawyer Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by Washington Law and Politics Magazine, and Rated Superb for DUI Defense (perfect 10.0 out of 10.0) by