Breath Tests and DUI Probation in Michigan

When you are charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Michigan, there is a good chance you will be put on probation as part of your OWI sentencing. Typically, one requirement of OWI probation is that you abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages.

Michigan employs a number of techniques to determine if you have been drinking in violation of your probation. One method is random breath tests. Unfortunately, breath tests are not always reliable and you may face a probation revocation hearing on the basis of faulty results from a breath test. If you find yourself in this situation, it is imperative you consult with an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to get legal help.

About Breath Tests and Michigan DUI Probation

When you are put on OWI probation in Michigan, the court may impose a number of conditions at its discretion. Typically, you will be required to meet with a probation officer regularly during the course of your probation. You may also be subject to random testing to determine whether you have consumed alcohol. This testing may take the form of an EtG test, which is supposed to determine whether you consumed alcohol at any time in the course of the past 80 hours. It may also take the form of a standard breath test.

The purpose of a breath test is to determine the concentration of alcohol in the blood. As you consume alcohol, it is not digested or chemically changed immediately. Instead, it moves through your blood as alcohol. As that alcohol moves through your blood, some of it passes along the membranes of the air sacks of the lungs. This means that when you breathe, you exhale the alcohol.

When you breathe out into the breath testing device, this test can detect the concentration of alcohol you are exhaling. This gives an indication of the measure of alcohol in your body and, because it has been determined that the ratio of breath alcohol to blood alcohol is 2,100:1, the information on the alcohol in your breath is used to determine your blood alcohol content. When your blood alcohol content shows you have consumed alcohol, this information can be used to revoke your probation. 

Michigan DUI / DWI Probation Violation Hearings

When a breath test reveals you have consumed alcohol, you are entitled to a probation revocation hearing before this occurs. However, your rights in a probation violation hearing are limited. In addition, the probation violation does not need to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in order for your probation to be revoked. It is enough to show that a violation likely occurred. In many cases, this means the failed breath test alone is enough to have your probation revoked.

Problems With Breath Tests

Unfortunately, despite the fact that a breath test can be used to send you to jail for a Michigan OWI probation violation, there are some serious questions about whether these breath tests are as reliable as law enforcement may want you to believe.

  • In an article titled Physiological Errors Associated with Alcohol Breath Testing, a University of Washington professor of physiology, biophysics and medicine cautioned against the use of a breath test for determining intoxication in legal matters and indicated that breath testing was unreliable due to the fact that so many physiological variables exist.
  • An article, Accuracy and Precision of Breath-Alcohol Measurements for a Random Subject in the Postabsorptive State, published in Clinical Chemistry demonstrated that the breath tests of 23 percent of tested individuals revealed more blood alcohol in their bodies than was actually present at the time.
  • Breath tests have known issues including being affected by nearby devices emitting radio waves, and an inability to distinguish between blood alcohol content and alcohol in a person’s mouth, such as might be caused by diabetes, heartburn or the use of common household items such as mouthwash.

Numerous other studies have also revealed problems with breathalyzer results caused by various factors. Because a Breathalyzer can so often lead to inaccurate or incorrect results, it is imperative you consult with an experienced Michigan OWI defense attorney to better understand your legal rights regarding breath tests and Michigan DWI probation. 

Facing a DWI Probation Hearing Because of a Breath Test? Get Legal Help Now

Because you have fewer legal protections in a probation violation hearing, it is especially important to contact an experienced Michigan DWI defense attorney for help before a probation revocation hearing. Your OWI defense attorney can assist you in getting evidence and crafting arguments to help you to avoid the unfair revocation of your probation after a failed breath test.

Posted in: DWI
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