After a motorist has performed standardized field sobriety tests the officer will ask them to provide a breath sample into a roadside, handheld breath machine. These machines are known as Portable Breath Test (PBT) devices. The PBT should not be confused with the state’s breath testing machines, the Intoxilyzer 5000 or Intoxilyzer 9000.
Similar to the state’s breath testing machines, the PBT does give a numerical reading of your breath sample for alcohol, but unlike the state’s breath testing machines, this number is not admissible in court. The officer may only testify to whether a person was positive or negative for the presence of alcohol when they blew into the PBT. The officer may not testify to what the numerical reading was on the PBT.
The purpose of the PBT is for the officer to determine whether a DUI suspect is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If an officer believes a motorist is DUI, but the PBT results are negative for the presence of alcohol, the officer must then conduct a further investigation for DUI drugs. Conversely, if an officer believes a motorist is DUI, and the PBT results are positive for the presence of alcohol, the officer will not conduct a DUI drugs investigation.
The Negative Effects of PBT
Unfortunately, many officers use the PBT to cut corners in their DUI investigations. Since the PBT does give a numerical reading of a person’s breath sample for alcohol officers will either ask them to blow into the PBT before having the motorist perform standardized field sobriety tests, or the officer will base his entire arrest decision on the numerical results of the PBT instead of basing this decision on the results of the field sobriety tests coupled with other circumstances.
Both of these scenarios are in direct violation of the guidelines set forth by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) for what purposes NHTSA allows PBT’s to be used, and their guidelines on how to conduct a DUI investigation.
Most importantly, the PBT should not be confused with the State of Georgia’s breath testing machines. Many motorists understandably confuse these tests because they are both breath tests. Only a breath test that is performed on the state’s breath testing machines, the Intoxilyzer 5000 or Intoxilyzer 9000, may be introduced into evidence at court.
Additionally, providing a breath sample into a PBT, or refusing to do so, does not have any implications on your privilege to drive in the State of Georgia the way blowing, or refusing to blow, into the state’s breath testing machines does.