Rhode Island law allows the police, during a DUI investigation, to request that an individual submit to a portable breath test commonly referred to as a “PBT” or “preliminary breath test.”  Most people who are asked to submit to a PBT are unfamiliar with the way a PBT works and do not know the legal implications of taking or refusing a PBT.  It is our goal to explain what a PBT is, how it is used, and the legal implications of taking or refusing a preliminary breath test.  If you have further questions, please contact Attorney Matthew Marin at 401-228-8271.  We are available 24/7 to answer your questions and schedule a consultation so that we can provide you with the best possible legal advice and representation.

A preliminary breath test is a portable handheld device utilized by some Police Departments in Rhode Island (but not all).  It is most commonly utilized during roadside DUI investigations and it measures an individuals blood alcohol content by testing deep lung air.  The portable devices are generally accurate and typically admitted into evidence at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and the Rhode Island District Courts.  Violations for refusing to submit to a preliminary breath test are prosecuted at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.

Should I take a Preliminary Breath Test in Rhode Island?

In my opinion and experience, the Rhode Island law relating to the PBT makes this question easy to answer.  If you think there is a chance that you may be over the legal limit of 0.08, you should absolutely refuse to submit to the roadside preliminary breath test referred to as the PBT.  If you refuse to submit to a preliminary breath test, you will be citied with a violation Rhode Island General Law 31-27-2.3.  If convicted of refusal to submit to a preliminary breath test you will be subject to an $85 traffic violation.

On the other hand, if you submit to a preliminary breath test the results of that test can and will be used against you at a possible trial on the charge of driving under the influence (DUI) if your test results indicate that you are over the legal limit of 0.08.  This PBT result is critical evidence that can help the police to establish probable cause justifying your arrest for DUI.

How can the Preliminary Breath Test results be used in a DUI trial?

If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Rhode Island and you submitted to a roadside breathalyzer, the results of that test can and will be used against you as evidence in your DUI trial.  Generally, a skilled Rhode Island DUI trial lawyer will be able to limit the ability of the prosecution to use the test at trial.  The results of the test cannot be used to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you were driving under the influence.  Furthermore, a competent DUI attorney should be able to exclude from introduction into evidence the actual results of the test and limit the use of the test as pass/fail only.  This means that the trier of fact, either a jury or judge, should not consider the “reading” in deciding guilt or innocence.

Are the Preliminary Breath Test Results accurate and admissible?

The results of a roadside breathalyzer test are not always accurate or admissible.  There are a number of legal hurdles that the prosecution must satisfy prior to the results being admitted into evidence.  First, the officer administering the test must be currently certified as a breathalyzer operator by the Rhode Island Department of Health.  Second, the preliminary breath test machine must have been tested and comply with the Rhode Island Department of Health breath testing protocols.  There are numerous legal challenges to the admissibility of the results of the preliminary breath test.  If you need legal advice or representation, contact Attorney Matthew Marin at 401-228-8271.

Refusal to Submit to a Preliminary Breath Test Violation – R.I.G.L. 31-27-2.3

Information and Sources:

Rhode Island General Laws – Refusal to Submit to a Preliminary Breath Test

Rhode Island Department of Health – Breathalyzer Rules and Regulations