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Long Beach DUI Lawyers

Breathalyzer and Field Sobriety Test Defenses

When you are suspected of driving under the influence, the police will require you to submit to a chemical test to verify the presence of alcohol and/or drugs in your blood. You will be given the choice of submitting to a breath test, a blood test or in some cases a urine test. When you were issued a California drivers license you agreed to these tests under "implied consent". You will not be able to speak to an attorney prior to the test. It is always better to consent to the test than to refuse because the DMV will impose automatic penalties for your failure to comply with the "implied consent" rule but an experienced Long Beach drunk driving defense attorney will have many ways to dispute the accuracy of the results. Mr. Low has a degree in bio chemistry and understands all the variables that can affect the outcome.

Why Breathalyzers Are Used To Test BAC

Alcohol that a person drinks shows up in the breath because it gets absorbed from the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines into the bloodstream. Alcohol is not digested upon absorption or chemically changed in the bloodstream. As the blood goes through the lungs, a predictable amount of alcohol will move into the lungs.

When the alcohol comes in contact with the air in the lungs it evaporates. The concentration of alcohol in the lungs is directly related to the concentration of alcohol in the blood. Exhaling the evaporated alcohol will determine the BAC in your body.

There are testing inconsistencies and variations depending on the person and the environmental conditions. For example:

  • Weight: In general, the less you weigh the more you will be affected by a given amount of alcohol. Alcohol is affected by the percentage of water in the body. Typically, a larger individual will have a lower BAC reading even though the actual amount of alcohol consumed is the same as a smaller person.
  • Gender: Generally women tend to have a higher percentage of body fat, and thus a lower percentage of body water, and if a man and a woman of the same weight ingest the same amount of alcohol the woman will tend to achieve a higher alcohol concentration. However, certain studies have shown that women eliminate alcohol from their bodies at a rate 10% greater than that of men which may counteract gender differences in body composition.
  • Age: Total body water also tends to decrease with age, so an older person will be more affected by the same amount of alcohol. Blood alcohol concentrations may be up to 10% higher in an older person even though the amount of alcohol consumed was the same.
  • Body Temperature: The widely used blood-to-air partition ratio of 2100 is based on a normal body temperature of 98.6°F. A higher body temperature will overestimate the actual BAC because of the higher volatility (or vapor pressure) of liquids like alcohol at a higher temperature. Therefore, a person with a body temperature of 100.4°F, and with an actual blood alcohol of 0.0935%, will register a value of 0.10% by the breath test. If you have a fever and your body temperature is elevated, you may give a higher reading.
  • Cellular Composition of Blood: Blood contains suspended cells and proteins, and is therefore only a partial liquid. The partition ratio of 2100 is based on an average cell volume of blood of 47%. Cell volume values range from 42 to 52% in males and 37 to 47% in females. Therefore, a person with a lower cell volume will have a falsely elevated blood alcohol based on a breath test.
  • Level Of Fitness: For people of the same weight, a well muscled individual will be less affected by the same volume of alcohol than someone with a higher percentage of fat. Body fat will not absorb as much alcohol as muscle since it contains less water. The less alcohol your body absorbs, the more alcohol will go into the bloodstream.
  • Exercise: Strenuous exercise can increase your breathing rate thus increasing the flow of alcohol into the lungs. This can cause the alcohol to be expelled at a greater rate than if you were sedentary. Hyperventilation can have the same effect as strenuous exercise.

An experienced Southern California DUI defense attorney who knows about chemistry and the chemical interactions within the body is able to "pick apart" chemical testing evidence. Make sure you call The Law Firm of Joseph H. Low IV - Attorneys for the People as soon as you can. Mr. Low will go to work on your defense immediately.

How Breathalyzers Work

Breathalyzers are complex, sophisticated devices that use a combination of chemicals such as sulfuric acid and silver nitrate that, when combined with the air from your lungs, produces chemical changes. The changes are directly related to the blood alcohol content in your body.

Simply stated, there is a tube into which you breathe and this goes into vials containing chemicals. The result of the mixing of breath and chemicals creates a reaction that produces an electrical current. This current moves a dial that then measures the amount of alcohol in your blood stream.

Obviously, the operator of the breath device must be specifically trained to perform the test accurately, and most importantly read the dial accurately. The use of breath tests is regulated by Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations and their operators must adhere to its guidelines. The California code of regulations is a complex technical manual. Mr. Low can decipher all the technicalities of the code and, in many instances, may find that the guidelines were not strictly adhered to in your case.

Understanding the complexity of the equipment combined with the expertise needed to register a "true" reading makes it even more crucial that you do not consent to a portable (roadside) breath test. Make sure that you are tested in a controlled environment by accredited practitioners.

If you are facing DUI or drunk driving charges in California, you need the assistance of an experienced and competent California DUI defense lawyer. Call today for your free consultation. Mr. Low will give you straight answers about your particular situation.

Why Blood Tests Are Used

You will generally have the option of submitting to a breath test or a blood test but under certain situations such as an injury that prevents you from consenting to a breath test, you will be given a blood test. It is often suggested that you choose to take a blood test rather than a breath test because the evidence from a breath test cannot be saved whereas a blood sample can be preserved for independent examination at a later date.

You may think that a blood test is more accurate and while this is the popular belief, many circumstances can alter its accuracy. Only qualified personnel can administer a blood test and, as with a breath test, the California code of regulations must be followed. Many environmental and human factors such as improperly mixed chemicals, contaminated apparatus, etc., can lead to a false reading. Mr. Low will question all of these elements in order to give you the best defense possible.

Field Sobriety Tests

Many people believe that they are required to consent to certain "motor skills" tests, commonly referred to as field sobriety tests. This is not the case. Field sobriety tests are voluntary. You can say no! If you have already consented to a field sobriety test, you will need to rely on an experienced DUI attorney who understands the insignificance of these exercises. Mr. Low is an attorney who is hired by other attorneys who need help with their defense. He served in the Marine Corp and also has a degree in bio chemistry. He understands your physiological and psychological responses when faced with an unusual command while under extremely stressful situations and he will fight to ensure that your constitutional rights are protected.

Field sobriety tests such as touching your nose with your finger, standing on one foot, following the movement of a pen light with your eyes are all things that we have seen law enforcement personnel do when they suspect someone of driving under the influence. However, many people do not realize that these tests are voluntary. You are not required by law to consent to any test that the police want to conduct "in the field". This includes not only answering questions that may be considered testimonial by nature, consenting to a roadside breath test, but also the tests listed below.

HGN Test: (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test) Police will point an object at your eyes and ask you to follow the movement of the object without turning your head. They are looking for 3 signs that may indicate that your BAC is over the legal limit.

  1. Lack of smooth pursuit means that your eyes will jerk as they follow the object or that your head will move from side to side.
  2. Distinct jerkiness at maximum deviation means they will move an object as far as possible to one side until the white of the eye is no longer showing. They will then check for jerkiness in the eye.
  3. Angle of onset means that they will move the object until you are looking at a 45 degree angle. They determine a 45 degree angle to be reached when the object is halfway between your nose and your ear and is held between 12 and 15 inches away from your face. If your eyes jerk when the test is being performed, they may conclude that the nystagmus is alcohol related.

NEVER CONSENT TO THIS TEST. It is highly improbable that the person performing the test has the expertise necessary to accurately access the results. There are many reasons why your eye may "jerk" while this test is being performed and having a BAC over the legal limit is only one of them.

Divided Attention Test: The walk and turn test and the one-leg stand test are used to determine your ability to follow instructions while your attention is being divided between mental and physical exercises. If you cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions, begin before the instructions are finished, stop while walking to regain balance, do not touch heel-to-toe, etc., you may be considered to be DUI.

Stationary Balance Test or Rhomberg Test: This test requires a person to stand with heels and toes touching, leaning their head back to look up at the sky or ceiling, holding their arms out to the side and estimate 30 seconds. If you are unable to perform any part of the test properly, you may be considered DUI.

Contact a Long Beach Drunk Driving Defense Attorney Now!

The Law Firm of Joseph H. Low IV - Attorneys for the People is dedicated to vigorously protecting the rights of their clients and achieving the best possible results. The firm's founder, Joseph H. Low IV, is a criminal trial attorney with experience in defending clients nationwide and has the reputation as a tough courtroom attorney and successful legal strategist. If you are facing drunk driving charges in Southern California, you need the assistance of an experienced and competent California DUI lawyer. Call today for your free consultation. Mr. Low will give you straight answers about your particular situation.

"Joseph, Thank you for your assistance. Your understanding compassion & incredible expertise are admired & appreciated. I will be referring any of my clients who require legal help to you."
- M.D.