You’ve probably seen it on TV or in the movies: A drunk driving suspect is pulled over by the police and asked to breathe into a breathalyzer while sitting in their vehicle or standing on the side of the road. This roadside test is known as the preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS test) or the “pre-arrest breath test.”
If you’re like a lot of California drivers, you may have the pre-arrest breath test confused with the post-arrest breath test – and that’s completely understandable. Not only is there a difference between the two breath tests, all licensed drivers should know what they are. We’re going to explain preliminary alcohol screening tests (PAS) so you’ll never have to wonder if you’re legally required to take one again, barring a change in the laws.
Two Types of Tests for Calculating BAC
When it comes to a DUI investigation in Orange County, the police will typically ask the driver to take two different tests to determine the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC): 1) the PAS test, and 2) the post-arrest blood or breath test (taken down at the station).
- The pre-arrest breath test, known as the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test – the roadside breathalyzer test you’ve seen on TV.
- A post-arrest blood or breath test, which is usually taken down at the station.
What’s the difference between the pre-arrest (PAS) test and the post-arrest chemical test? The key difference is that the pre-arrest PAS test is optional, unless you are:
- Under the age of 21 and suspected of DUI, or
- Currently on probation for a previous DUI.
If you are over 21 and you are NOT on DUI probation, you can politely refuse the PAS test and nothing bad will happen. Assuming you’re not under arrest, the PAS test is optional and you won’t lose your license for refusing.
Much like the “optional” field sobriety tests, the police use the results of PAS tests to help them decide whether to arrest someone for DUI. So, remember, if you agree to do the PAS test, those results can and will be used against you.
What if I Am Arrested for DUI?
If you are at least 21 years-old and not on DUI probation, we recommend that you are polite to the officer and tell them that you decline to take the PAS test. However, if you are arrested for DUI and you refuse to take a chemical test, it could result in the automatic loss of your driver’s license and enhanced DUI penalties.
If you are arrested for DUI after refusing a PAS test, it’ basically up to you to decide what to do next. If you have NOT been drinking or you had very little to drink, or it’s been hours since you had a drink or two, you could take a blood test to prove that you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Blood tests are typically more accurate than breathalyzers.
On the other hand, if you have been drinking and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is questionable, your options are: 1) refuse the post-arrest breath test and face an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension and possibly DUI charges, or 2) submit to a post-arrest breath test, which is more open to challenge than a blood test.
Just remember, you can still be arrested and charged with DUI, even if you refuse a post-arrest blood or breath test. It will just be harder for the prosecution to prove their case if they don’t have blood or breath test results.
Arrested for DUI? Call the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. to speak with an Orange County DUI lawyer who is Board Certified in DUI defense for free!