San Francisco DUI Lawyer Talks What You Need to Know About the 15 Minutes Observation

Posted on September 17, 2015

DUI Case

There are many important steps and procedures which must be followed in properly administering a DUI breath test. Each step is required and helps ensure that the results of the tests are as accurate as possible. When the test is not properly administered, the results cannot be relied upon and a skilled DUI lawyer from Silveira Law can use each mistake in administration as part of a strong defense. One of the important rules in administering the breath test is the 15-minute continuous observation period. This observation period is an important to ensure the accuracy of the breath result received. While the prosecutor may try to portray this 15-minute observation as no more than routine, your San Francisco DUI attorney knows better and will make sure the jury knows better too.

  1. Why 15-minutes matter. The breath test is intended to give a reading of your blood alcohol content (BAC) and relies on the exhalation of air from the lungs. The 15-minute observation period is intended to ensure there is no residual alcohol or other contaminates in the mouth which might affect the reading of the breath machine and produce a false result. Your breath sample can be contaminated by almost anything including regurgitating, vomiting, belching, or smoking. Even the use of mouth wash can affect a sample. The presence of alcohol, even residual alcohol, in the mouth can produce an inaccurate, artificially elevated, result. The 15-minute observation is about accuracy, and any questions about the accuracy of the breath test will help your experienced San Francisco DUI lawyer give you the best possible defense.
  2. The 15-minute observation period is required. Sometimes officers get busy, sometimes they are trying to save time, but failure to follow the rule is a problem; less than 15 minutes of observation needs to be highlighted and questioned. In a DUI case the prosecution will usually benefit from a presumption of the reliability of the breath test, however, if the procedures weren’t followed the prosecution loses the benefit of the presumption. Depending on the degree of error, failure to follow the rules could even result in invalidating the entire breath test. A skilled San Francisco DUI attorney can make all the difference.
  3. When continuous is not. As discussed above, police must follow the required procedure in administering the breath test and any failure to do so can seriously affect the accuracy and admissibility of the results. The procedure requires that the 15-minute observation be “continuous” – unfortunately what counts as continuous is not specified. Courts have interpreted this requirement differently and if there is a question about the observation it will be up to your attorney to make an argument that, in light of the purpose behind the continuous observation, the actions of the particular officer in your case were inadequate. Each case is unique and it is up to your DUI attorney to carefully review the facts of your case to determine whether the officer’s actions met the standard of “continuous observation.” A skilled San Francisco DUI attorney will consider such things as whether the “observation” began during transport, if you were left alone in the squad car, whether the observation was conducted by a single officer or several, or whether the officer was doing paperwork while conducting the observation. Silveira Law can help.
Contact a San Francisco DUI Lawyer

For more help from a skilled San Francisco DUI lawyer with your 15 minute observation, contact Silveira Law at (415) 795-3890.