During a DUI investigation, drivers suspected of DUI may be asked to submit to two different breathalyzer tests. It’s important to distinguish between the two because the purpose for each one, as well as the role they may play in a driver’s prosecution for the offense of DUI, are vastly different.
Alco-Sensor vs. Breathalyzer Machine
The first breathalyzer test that is often given by police is at the scene and often by the side of the road. This is actually a portable breath test, commonly called an alco-sensor, that the officer will ask the individual to breathe into so the officer may determine roughly how much alcohol, if any, the driver has had. The purpose of this test is to give the officer probable cause to arrest the driver for DUI. When the portable breath test, most often given in conjunction with other roadside tests like the walk and turn and the finger to nose, indicates a high measure of alcohol, the driver will very often be arrested for suspicion of DUI. Two things to remember about this test: the actual numerical reading of the alco-sensor is not admissible in evidence to prove a driver’s blood alcohol content. Its sole purpose is to give the officer probable cause to make an arrest. Secondly, a motorist cannot be penalized for his or her refusal to submit to the test. The alco-sensor is always used pre-arrest and it is technically regarded as a “field sobriety test” by law enforcement.
The second breathalyzer test is given post-arrest and administered at the police station. This is where the officer takes the driver to a table and has them seated in front of the breathalyzer machine. They will be asked to provide two samples. Once the individual blows into the machine it will spit out a numerical readout of an individual’s blood alcohol content. These are the results that may be used in court to show your blood alcohol content. The most important thing to know about this test is that the motorist has no right to refuse to give a sample. If they do, this will be deemed a “refusal” by the police officer. The officer will then notify PennDot of the refusal and the motorist will receive a notice from PennDot advising them that their driving privileges will be suspended for one (1) year as a result of the refusal. In short, don’t refuse the breathalyzer because 99 times out of 100, it only makes things worse.