What is a PBT test?


A common request police officers make to people they believe are drunk driving is to submit to preliminary breath test (PBT).  The Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan believes that most of the time it is in the best interest of the person being investigated for drunk driving to refuse the test.

What is a PBT test?

A PBT is a small handheld device that tries to measure blood alcohol content. This device tries to do this by measuring the amount of alcohol in your breath.  The safe rule of thumb when it comes to a PBT result being brought up in court is that the results are not allowed to prove how much alcohol is in the body of a person standing trial for a DUI.

PBTs have a bad tendency to produce false results. The reasons for this maybe other substances are found by the PBT, bad weather conditions and police officers who aren’t properly trained to use the device.

A PBT is a small device which is portable and the vast majority of the time a test with a PBT is given on the side of the road.

Should I take the PBT test when an officer asks me to?

In most cases, a person should refuse to take the test.

MCL 257.625a(2)(d) provides that ” a person who refuses to submit to a preliminary chemical breath analysis upon a lawful request by a peace officer is responsible for a civil infraction.” Due to additional penalties for commercial driver license (CDL) holders, refusing a PBT may not be appropriate for a CDL holder.

When a person refuses to take a PBT test, they will be given a civil infraction. By taking this test, a driver maybe giving a police officer probable cause to arrest you for DUI. The PBT test is usually given along with a whole bunch of other field sobriety tests. These field sobriety tests are very subjective. These tests rely on a police officer conducting the test properly. The officer needs to correctly describe to the person they have pulled over for drunk driving how to perform the tests.  There are a lot of police officers that fail to properly administer the PBT. Because the refusal to take a PBT test is only a civil infraction, in this case a one hundred dollar fine, it is wise to refuse to take this test.

The results of a PBT test can only be administered in court during the following circumstances.

  1. To assist the district court in determining if the police officer performed a valid arrest.
  2. According to the law in Michigan a PBT test can be used “As evidence of the defendant’s breath alcohol content, if offered by the defendant to rebut testimony elicited on cross-examination of a defense witness that the defendant’s breath alcohol content was higher at the time of the charged offense than when [an evidentiary] chemical test was administered.”
  3. Finally, a PBT test can be used “As evidence of the defendant’s breath alcohol content if offered by the prosecution to rebut testimony elicited on cross-examination of a prosecution witness that the defendant’s breath alcohol content was lower at the time of the charged offense.
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