Understanding the DWI Arrest Process at the Police Station
In this article, you can discover:
- The procedure during a DWI arrest at the police station.
- Potential problems with the breathalyzer process and equipment.
- The importance of proper documentation, and certification of officers.
What Happens at the Station During a DWI Arrest?
If you are arrested on suspicion of DWI, you will be handcuffed and placed in the rear of a patrol car and taken to a police station. There, police will bring you into a processing room and switch one of the handcuffs from your wrist to a bench or they will place you in a holding cell. Officers must observe you for at least 20 minutes immediately before you submit breath samples to ensure there is no burping, belching, vomiting, or ingestion of anything that could compromise the integrity of the breath test.
After this observation period, police will ask you to submit breath samples, usually two. They may request additional samples if the breath testing instrument does not accept one of your samples. Each breath sample must meet specific volume and duration requirements, among others.
What Are the Potential Problems with the Evidential Breathalyzer Process and Equipment that Can Be Used in My Defense?
Potential issues with the breath testing process and equipment can arise from electronic interference and potential sources of contamination from the stomach or mouth. Contamination may arise from dental conditions that retain alcohol like dentures, braces, bite plates, retainers, Invisalign®, or any foreign material in the mouth that was not detected by the officer.
Electronic interference can arise from cellphones, smart watches, hearing aids, portable radios, and the like. Other potential issues are incorrect documentation, uncertified officers operating the equipment, and the general reliability of using breath alcohol content [“BrAC”] as a proxy for blood alcohol content [“BAC”].
Using BrAC as a proxy for BAC for forensic purposes is based on several assumptions, including:
- The alveoli, the deepest part of the lungs, is most strongly associated with the body’s circulatory system.
- Ethanol is exchanged from the blood in the circulatory system to the lungs in the alveoli.
- Ethanol in alveolar breath represents ethanol in the blood.
- The amount of alcohol in 2100 parts of breath is equivalent to one part of alcohol in the blood.
- All breath vapor entering the breath testing instrument is coming from the alveoli and not from other sources.
- All alcohol in the mouth will dissipate after 20 minutes, assuming the subject has not regurgitated (e., burped, belched, etc.) or ingested contaminants.
- No foreign materials are in the mouth.
The objective of the 20-minute observation period and checking the mouth is to ensure that there are no apparent sources of contamination that would render BrAC invalid as a measurement of BAC. Physiological conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease [“GERD”] can cause contamination of the breath sample, rendering it inappropriate and scientifically unreliable as a proxy for measuring BAC.
Contamination arises from the fact that persons suffering from GERD have an incompetent hiatal sphincter that, rather than closing the stomach off from the esophagus, remains open, thereby permitting stomach contents to enter the esophagus. The result of this condition often leads to heartburn, although the condition may be asymptomatic. Sitting on a bench or chair increases abdominal pressure which, in turn, causes reflux of gastric contents into the posterior pharynx.
As air from the end alveoli passes through the pharynx, that air is contaminated by the pharyngeal air which contains alcohol from the refluxed stomach contents. This occurs due to the vacuum created via the expiration of breath into the breath testing instrument. The vacuum tends to draw air from the stomach. One can analogize contamination from GERD to the way a chimney will through off smoke and sparks through a chimney, particularly when there is wind above the chimney. While medication may alleviate symptoms, medication does not correct the condition, and vapor from the stomach can contaminate the breath sample.
It is difficult to observe regurgitation which occurs from increased abdominal pressure. The observation of regurgitation from GERD is often subtle and undetectable. Consequently, there is a reasonable probability that a breath sample would be contaminated by vapor coming from the stomach. For persons suffering from GERD, it is simply inappropriate and scientifically unreliable to use BrAC as a proxy for BAC.
For more information on the Aftermath Of A DWI Arrest In New Jersey, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (732) 218-9090 today.
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