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Can a police officer refuse to tell me what I blew on the breathalyzer?

It is very common for a person to call us and ask us, "What If the Officer refused to tell me what I blew on the Breathalyzer? Can they do that?"

The answer is: No! If you did a breathalyzer, the officer is required by law to print out your results from the breathalyzer and give you a copy to keep. If this did not happen, call us to discuss the ramifications to your case. 

However, this is where terminology is very, very important. There is a difference between a "Portable Breath Test" (or PBT for short) and an actual Breathalyzer.

What's the difference between a PBT and a Breathalyzer?

When police give you a hand-held breath test while you're on the arrest scene -- that test is NOT a breathalyzer. All handheld breath tests are called "Portable Breath Tests" or a PBTs for short. This hand-held breath test (PBT) is different from a "breathalyzer" because a breathalyzer is a large, table-top machine that is only kept back at the jail or police station. When you've taken a PBT, the officer does not have to -- and in fact is not allowed to tell you the numerical result!

PBTs and Breathalyzers are different in two respects: (1) the admissibility of the numerical results; and (2) the ramifications of refusing to take the test.

With PBTs: the numerical result is NOT admissible against you in court.

  • See Rowell v. State, 312 Ga.App. 559 (2011) (trial court erred in admitting numerical reading of alco-sensor during motion to suppress hearing. “It is well-established that alco-sensor results are not used as evidence of the amount of alcohol or drug in a person's blood. Instead, the alco-sensor is used as an initial screening device to aid the police officer in determining probable cause to arrest a motorist suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. Thus, this Court has held that such information is not admissible even for considering probable cause.”).
  • In short, all that is admissible against you in court for a PBT test is whether the result was positive or negative for alcohol. 

With PBTs: the ramifications for refusing the test are -- nothing! You have the absolute right to refuse the PBT. Your license will not be affected at all if you refuse a PBT. And, your refusal to do the PBT cannot be used against you in court in any way. That means the jury cannot be told about your refusal to provide a breath sample on a PBT. You should ALWAYS refuse PBTs.

With Breathalyzer tests: (1) the numerical result is admissible against you to prove your BAC; and (2) if you refuse a breathalyzer your license will be suspended for 12 months. 

If you have questions, call us at 770-249-4405

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If you are facing criminal charges, you are in the right place. Give us a call at 770.249.4405, or send us a message.