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PA SUPREME COURT DUI BREATH TEST DECISION

In a recent decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the admission of accuracy and calibration certificates for DUI breath test machines without testimony from the individual who performed the testing and prepared the certificates does not violate Sixth Amendment right to confrontation of a person accused of Driving Under the Influence.

Blood and Breath Testing for Alcohol

When a person is placed under arrest for suspicion of DUI in PA, the police will generally attempt to obtain additional evidence of alcohol impairment by requesting that the person consent and submit to a blood or breath test.  In instances where an evidentiary breath test machine is used, the results will produce a BrAC (Breath Alcohol Content), as opposed to the commonly referred to BAC (Blood Alcohol Content).

Admissibility of DUI Breath Test Results

Just because a BrAC is obtained and a person is charged with drunk driving does not mean it automatically results in a DUI conviction.  The sufficiency and admissibility of evidence in a case are open to be challenged by the defense.

Where a evidentiary breath test machine is used, there are a number of procedural requirements that must be met before the BrAC result can be admitted into evidence and the judge or jury can hear it.

Breath Test Accuracy, Calibration, and Confrontation

In this case, the defense valiantly but unsuccessfully challenged the admission of this evidence without the testimony of the certified Evidentiary Breath Technician who tested the machine at issue for accuracy and calibration, which are in place to maintain the scientific reliability of this testing procedure.  More specfically, the challenge was raised under our Sixth Amendment Right to Confrontation, which provides the defendant the right to cross-examine witnesses offering evidence against him or her.

Unfortunately, this right is not absolute and with limitations.  Through a series of more recent cases, our highest courts have limited this right to "testimonial" statements while also narrowing its scope, which generally include statements (orally or in writing) that were made in anticipation of trial.

Here, the PA Supreme Court held that the certificates were "non-testimonial" because they were not prepared for the primary purpose of providing evidence in a criminal case.

The Result

The result and holding in this case will not end the debate on this topic and others concerning the admissibility of DUI breath test results.

When you have been charged of driving under the influence of alcohol incident to a breath test, the result in this case is but one factor in determining the admissibility of the BrAC results in your case.  However, the result or outcome of your case will ultimately be determined by the PA DUI Defense Lawyer you have in your corner.

If you have been accused of DUI, you should immediately consult with a Harrisburg DUI Defense Attorney to protect your rights, your freedom, and your life.  Contact us today for a free phone consultation.

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