A BAC reading of .08 does not seal your fate

Deciding whether to submit to a blood alcohol test may be a difficult choice that you have to make at a moment's notice. Police have pulled you over, walked you through the routine field sobriety tests and concluded that you are probably under the influence of alcohol. To determine how much alcohol is in your system, they ask you to take a breath test. With no one to give you legal counsel, you have two choices: submit or refuse.

If you refuse, you violate the implied consent law in Massachusetts and many other states. This law states that if you have a driver's license, you agree to a blood alcohol test on demand, and if you refuse the test, your license will be suspended. On the other hand, if you submit, and the test results show that your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher, you face the serious consequences of a DUI charge.

Three tests and their accuracy

Submitting to a test may not be the end of the story. Even if your BAC shows you are at or above the legal limit, your attorney may still be able to question the reliability of the test.

Police use three common tests - breath, blood and urine - to determine a person's BAC. The officers who detained you may have used one or more of them to confirm their suspicions. You may have taken the breath test at the scene after the field sobriety examinations. Police may have repeated the breath test once you arrived at the station or asked you to submit to one of the other types of BAC tests.

More accurate, but also invasive

Police do not use the urine test often unless they have no other options available. This is because courts in some states consider the test intrusive of your privacy rights. It may also be inaccurate and easy to circumvent.

Nevertheless, newer versions of the urine test measure levels of ethyl glucuronide (EtG), a metabolite of alcohol, which appears in your urine immediately after you take a drink. EtG remains in your system for up to 80 hours, but alcohol is only in your system up to 24 hours. For this reason, the test often gives false positives.

The blood test gives the most accurate BAC results. However, because your blood also provides much more information about you than the level of alcohol in your body, police are required to get a warrant unless you consent to have your blood drawn.

Questioning the results

The results of your BAC test will play an important part in an officer's decision to arrest you and a prosecutor's decision to charge you. Contacting a lawyer as soon as you are able will be crucial at this point. Your attorney will likely want to examine the police report and the testing procedures to build your defense.

Attorneys with experience in DUI cases know where to find the flaws in the tests. They will look for environmental contamination, dilution of the sample or mishandling at the lab, which would invalidate the test results. Lawyers get the best results when the evidence is fresh and there is time to build a strong argument. This is why contacting an attorney immediately after your arrest will result in the best outcome for your circumstances.

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