From now on, if the Pennsylvania State Police suspect someone of driving under the influence (DUI), the state police will NOT be giving those suspects Breathalyzer tests anymore. Instead, the state police will be taking boold samples from the suspects. Why the change? Because a Pennsylvania Judge recently ruled that Breathalyzer results cannot be cannot be considered accurate beyond a blood-alcohol content (BAC) reading of 0.15 percent. The Judge also found that lower BAC readings from the Breathalyzer should be regarded as "extremely questionable."
To put this in real world terms,a .15% BAC can result from as few as three drinks for a woman, or four drinks for a man.
Defense attorneys and scientists have known about the inaccuracies of Breathalyzer tests for years and have made these arguments to Judges in thousands of cases. Now that a Judge has agreed, this new ruling could affect thousands of DUI cases in Pennsylvania. However, this is both good news, and bad news, for those accused of DUI.
GOOD NEWS FOR THE ACCUSED
Someone over 21 years old who drives with a BAC level between .10% and .16% is guilty of a Tier 2 DUI. If it is the person’s first DUI, the law requires a minimum prison sentence of 2 days. If it is the person’s second DUI, the law requires a minimum prison sentence of 30 days. For a third DUI the law requires a minimum sentence of 90 days imprisonment. For a fourth DUI the law requires a minimum sentence of one year imprisonment.
Someone over 21 years old who drives with a BAC level over .16% is guilty of a Tier 3 DUI. If it is the person’s first DUI, the law requires a minimum prison sentence of 3 days. If it is the person’s second DUI, the law requires a minimum prison sentence of 90 days. For a third or fourth DUI the law requires a minimum sentence of one year imprisionment.
The new ruling obviously effects prosecutions for Tier 3 offenses because the Commonwealth has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a driver’s BAC was over .16%. This is significant because Tier 3 DUIs carry the stiffest penalties and most jail time.
The ruling also states that the Judge found lower BAC readings from one type of Breathalyzer machine to be "extremely questionable." Because the Commonwealth has to prove the level of intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt, Tier 1 and 2 cases could be affected as well.
BAD NEWS FOR THE ACCUSED
A State police spokesman pointed out that DUI arrests may actually INCREASE as a result of the decision to stop using Breathalyzers. This is because a Breathalyzer cannot detect drugs in a person’s system but a blood test can. A DUI in which the person is under the influence of a controlled substance is a Tier 3 DUI.