Experience. Results. Compassion.

Is a PAS the same as a Breathalyzer? Make sure you know

On Behalf of | May 3, 2018 | Firm News

You’re driving home from your favorite Colorado restaurant after an enjoyable evening out with some friends. Not far from your home, a police officer pulls you over. You do what most conscientious motorists would do and swiftly spot a section of roadside where you can pull over safely and come to a complete stop. Within the next few minutes, a police officer approaches your window, asks for your operator’s license and vehicle registration information, then requests that you step out of your vehicle.

The officer also asks if you’ve been drinking alcohol and says your vehicle veered over the yellow line. In this type of situation, consider yourself detained, meaning you may not leave the scene unless the police officer gives you permission to do so. If a he or she asks you to blow into a mobile breath test device, it’s critical that you understand the difference between that test and an actual Breathalyzer test. It’s also critical that you know your rights and where to seek support.

Preliminary alcohol screening test or Breathalyzer? 

Some Colorado motorists have run into complications in the past when they refused to take Breathalyzer tests because they thought they already took the test at the scene of their traffic stops. As it turned out, the tests their arresting officers had administered at the scene were preliminary alcohol screening breath tests. The following information explains the difference and how your understanding of these two tests can impact the outcome if a police officer suspects you of drunk driving: 

  • Police in Colorado and most other states typically use a series of impairment tests to determine whether they have probable cause to make DUI arrests. One of the most common assessments is the preliminary alcohol screening test. An officer administering this test generally uses a mobile breath test device that can detect alcohol on your breath when you blow into it. 
  • The device traffic officers use for PAS is not the same as a Breathalyzer testing device, which is often administered after an officer has made a DUI arrest.  
  • A PAS is a field sobriety screening test, often followed by additional requests for you to perform a walk-and-turn or horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The key factor here is that you have the right to refuse to take field sobriety tests without legal repercussion. That’s not to say you won’t complicate your situation by refusing, only that you face no legal obligation to submit.  
  • On the other hand, if you refuse a Breathalyzer test, implied consent laws cause you to risk automatic administrative penalties that may include driver’s license suspension. 
  • Also remember that a patrol officer can use a PAS test to determine whether or not to arrest you for DUI; however, prosecutors may not use PAS results as evidence to convict you of drunk driving charges.  

You have the right to request legal representation if you become subject to a police investigation, which is the case if a law enforcement agent is asking you to take a PAS or any other field sobriety test on the side of the road during a traffic stop. Everything you’ve likely heard regarding the fact that prosecutors can use anything you say or do against you in court if you later face DUI (or any other) charges is true.  

This is why most people reach out for support before things get that far because chances of avoiding conviction are usually better if you rely on experienced criminal defense guidance.