There are two types of breath tests in Virginia: the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) and the Breathalyzer Test. The PBT and Breathalyzer Test in Virginia both measure Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), but they are very different tests.
This post discusses the differences between the PBT and Breathalyzer Test in Virginia. For more information on Preliminary Breath Tests in Virginia, click here. For more information on Breathalyzer Tests in Virginia, click here.
Preliminary Breath Test
The Preliminary Breath Test, or PBT, in Virginia is a roadside breath test conducted as part of the field sobriety tests to determine the amount of alcohol in the driver’s system. If the PBT detects any alcohol, the police officer has probable cause to arrest the driver for DUI (Va. Code §18.2-267(D)).
The PBT is not mandatory. The driver can refuse to take the test and that refusal cannot be used against him in court. Additionally, the results will not come in to court unless the driver challenges probable cause for the DUI arrest.
The Breathalyzer Test is performed after the suspect is arrested and is mandatory under Virginia’s implied consent law (Va. Code §18.2-268.2(B).) The implied consent law requires Virginia drivers to submit to a breath (or blood) test if they are arrested for a DUI (Va. Code §18.2-266), Underage DUI (Va. Code §18.2-266.1) or Driving on a Revoked License (Va. Code §18.2-272(B)). Additionally, the implied consent law only applies if the driver was arrested within 3 hours of the offense and if the offense occurred on a public highway. The Breathalyzer results WILL be used against the offender in court.
If the driver unreasonably refuses the Breathalyzer Test, he can be charged with Breathalyzer Refusal under Va. Code §18.2-268.3. Breathalyzer Refusal is punished with automatic driver’s license suspension with no restricted license. For more information on Breathalyzer Refusal charges and penalties in Virginia, click here.
Main Differences Between PBT and Breathalyzer Test in Virginia
The PBT and Breathalyzer Test in Virginia both measure a driver’s blood alcohol level. However, the results of the tests (and their refusals) are very different. Results from a PBT in Virginia will not come into evidence against a driver unless he challenges probable cause for the arrest. The BAC results from the Breathalyzer Test, however, will come into evidence against the driver.
Another difference between the PBT and Breathalyzer Test in Virginia is that a driver can refuse to take a PBT and that refusal cannot be used against him in court. However, any Virginia driver is required by law to take a Breathalyzer Test if he is arrested for a DUI, Underage DUI, or Driving on a Revoked License.
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