What to expect during a roadside breath test?

As described in our article on “are random drink or drug tests legal”, you can be asked to undergo a roadside breath test if either:

  • The officer reasonably suspects you’ve consumed alcohol;
  • The officer reasonably suspects you’ve committed a motoring offence;
  • You’ve been involved in an accident.

There are currently fifteen, home office approved roadside breath testing kits in use on Britain’s roads. The below are the instructions that are typical to most devices in use today.

What should happen during a roadside breath test?

You should be asked when your last drink was. The police officer should wait at least 20 minutes before conducting the roadside breath test after your last drink. Officers typically wait 2-5 minutes after your last cigarette.

The officer should attach a fresh mouthpiece to the breathalyser and should explain the test to you. The officer should instruct you to fill your lungs and blow in one continuous breath through the mouthpiece.

In some cases, you’d have to blow strongly enough to bring on light A, and long enough to bring on light B. If you fail to bring on light B then you’d be deemed to have provided an unsatisfactory sample. In other cases, you’d need to cause the machine to create a continuous beep whilst blowing and would have to stop once you hear a double beep. It all depends which type of device you blow into.

In under a minute, the officer will take the reading from the machine.

A green light, or the words “Zero” or “Pass” means you’ve hardly got any alcohol in your system and you’ve passed the test. You can go on your way.

An amber light, or the word “Warn” means you’ve got more alcohol in your system, but you’ve passed the test. You’ve been lucky and should go on your way.

A red light, or the word “Fail” is bad news. You’re over the limit and will be taken to the police station for evidential testing.

The do’s and don’ts of roadside breath tests that the police should adhere to:

Your knowledge of these procedures could help you establish whether the police have breached procedure, and whether or not the roadside breath test result can be challenged by your legal team.

Do:

  • Ensure that it has been at least twenty minutes since the driver’s last drink before performing a roadside breath test;
  • Allow at least two minutes since the driver’s last cigarette before performing a roadside breath test;
  • Use a new mouthpiece for every test;
  • Ensure that a “ready check” is obtained before performing the breath test;

Don’t:

  • Allow the driver to hold the breathalyser device themselves;
  • Allow tobacco smoke to be blown into the mouthpiece;
  • Store the breathalyser device in an environment that is too hot or too cold;
  • Don’t subject the machine to severe mechanical shock (e.g. throwing it on the ground).

If you’ve been subjected to a breath test and you think the police have failed to follow the above guidelines, please contact a member of our legal team as soon as possible on 0330 33 22 770. There are numerous defences to drink driving, whether the police have breached procedure at the roadside, police station or hospital. It may not always be obvious that the police have made a mistake, so it’s vital to gain expert opinion on whether you have a case to fight. It could make the difference between walking away from Court with your licence intact or facing a minimum twelve-month ban from driving and a criminal record.

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Article written by Alison Ashworth, Specialist drink and drug driving solicitor and Managing Director of Ashworth Motoring Law. Alison has a first-class honours degree in law and has appeared on various TV and Radio programs to discuss drink and drug driving. Widely considered the “go-to” expert in the field of motoring law, Alison has outstanding rates of securing not guilty verdicts in cases involving drink and drug driving. If you would like Alison to personally look into your case, please call our advice line on 0330 33 22 770 and ask to be transferred directly to her.

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Are random breath tests or drug tests legal?

Photograph of random police stop

It’s official, the Christmas crackdown on drink and drug drivers has begun. This time of year sees hundreds of unsuspecting motorists caught with too much alcohol or drugs in their system after a random stop by police. But are random breath tests and random drug tests legal?

We could all be stopped in the run up to Christmas, and what happens next could determine whether or not you spend the next few hours in a cell, and ultimately, whether you lose your driving licence. What are your rights? What are you compelled to do? How can you avoid being arrested? This article seeks to help address all of these questions.

Can the police stop you at random?

Yes. The law gives the police a general power to stop a vehicle under Section 163 Road Traffic Act 1988. The police can, at random, stop any vehicle without any particular reason.

Can the police make you take a roadside breath test or a drug test at random?

No. Whilst you can be stopped at random by a police officer, they cannot require you take a roadside drink or drugs test without first having reasonable cause to suspect the you, the driver, of having consumed alcohol or committing a traffic offence when the vehicle was moving. If for example the officer asks you “when was the last time you drank alcohol/ took drugs” and you answer “Dinner time today” this may give rise to a suspicion that you are under the influence, in which case a roadside specimen can be requested from you. Failing or refusing the test would then lead to you being arrested and taken to the police station for evidential testing.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. An exception exists where there has been an accident. A police officer can ask you to take a roadside drink or drug test where they reasonably believe that you were driving or in charge of a vehicle that has been involved in an accident, whether or not another vehicle was involved.

Can you refuse to take a roadside breath test or drug swab?

Not without a reasonable excuse. Failing to take a roadside test without reasonable excuse is an offence which will result in you being brought to the police station for evidential testing in much the same way that a positive test would have done.

Summary

The police can randomly stop your vehicle; however they need reasonable cause to require you to participate in a roadside breath test or drug swab. If you don’t give the officer any reason to believe you may be under the influence, they cannot require you to participate in the test. Keep in mind that over the Christmas period, forces up and down the country are conducting random stops on motorists, and many drivers are ultimately charged with drink driving or drug driving as a result of these random stops.

Our best advice is common sense; make alternative arrangements to return home after a night’s indulgences and do not drive until you are certain you are fit to do so. Bear in mind that this could be well into the afternoon the following day for alcohol, or even several days later in the case of drugs, such as cocaine.

What if I’ve already been pulled for drink driving or drug driving?

If you’ve already been arrested for drink or drug driving and need advice on what happens next, feel free to contact our free legal advice line on 0330 33 22 770. One of our specialist drink or drug drive lawyers will listen to the details of your case, advise on your options and let you know the best course of action. Whether you need to minimise the effects of a ban or fight the conviction altogether, rest assured we can help.

Found this information useful? Share it with a friend!

Article written by Alison Ashworth, Specialist drink and drug driving solicitor and Managing Director of Ashworth Motoring Law. Alison has a first-class honours degree in law and has appeared on various TV and Radio programs to discuss drink and drug driving. Widely considered the “go-to” expert in the field of motoring law, Alison has outstanding rates of securing not guilty verdicts in cases involving drink and drug driving. If you would like Alison to personally look into your case, please call our advice line on 0330 33 22 770 and ask to be transferred directly to her.

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