Indiana Breathalyzer Laws
When someone is pulled over by law enforcement and is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, the police officer may request that they submit to a sobriety test. This could include a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) or a portable breath test, otherwise known as a breathalyzer. For many years, the common wisdom was to always refuse these tests. However, given the Indiana breathalyzer law, a refusal can be a dangerous move, and ultimately, can lead to a year-long suspension of an Indiana driver’s license.
While no one ever plans to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated, understanding Indiana drinking and driving laws is vital to protecting your rights. This article, specifically, will address Indiana’s breathalyzer law, as well as a related legal concept called implied consent. However, if you do have further questions or need to speak with an Indiana drunk driving attorney, feel free to contact the criminal defense team at Keffer Hirschauer LLP by calling 317-751-7186 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Common Questions about Indiana Breathalyzer Laws
When police pull over someone who they suspect is driving drunk, they have a set of rules and procedures they must follow prior to arresting the suspect. Understanding these rules and procedures, as well as the related laws, is vital to protecting both your rights and your livelihood. Therefore, it’s important to know which types of breathalyzer tests are used in the course of a DUI investigation, which tests you can legally refuse without consequence, what happens when you refuse certified breathalyzer tests and which types of test results are admissible in court.
What’s the Difference Between a Preliminary and Certified Breathalyzer Test in Indiana?
Preliminary breathalyzer tests (otherwise known as portable breath tests) are often conducted on-site as part of a police officer’s sobriety test. Certified breathalyzer tests, on the other hand, are typically conducted after the suspect is detained and taken to an Intoximeter EC/IR II machine, often located at the police station.
As explained in detail later in this post, the big difference between the two is that preliminary breathalyzer tests are utilized to establish probable cause for the arrest of a suspect, but the results of this test are not admissible in court. Certified breathalyzer tests, however, are admissible in court, provided that they were conducted in compliance with Indiana breathalyzer laws.
How Do Police Officers Establish Probable Cause in DUI Investigations?
Police in Indiana employ a variety of investigative techniques to determine whether a person has been operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs. First, they’ll evaluate the conversation they’re having with the suspect and use their senses to detect the odor of alcohol or other drugs. Based on this initial evaluation, they’ll decide whether they should perform a field sobriety test on the suspect, such as a preliminary breathalyzer test using a portable breathalyzer.
Can You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Indiana?
Yes, you can refuse a preliminary breathalyzer test in Indiana, as well as a standardized field sobriety test. However, given Indiana’s implied consent law, you have already given consent to take a certified chemical test, simply by the nature of operating a vehicle in the state of Indiana. So, if you refuse to take the preliminary breathalyzer test and the police officer has probable cause to believe that you’re intoxicated, they will often read you the implied consent warning and request that you submit to a certified breathalyzer test.
What Happens if You Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Indiana?
When someone is pulled over and the police suspect them of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, the officer will often begin by offering some field tests to the driver, like a preliminary (or portable) breath test. This is done to help the officer establish probable cause. However, the Indiana breathalyzer laws, located in Indiana Code 9-30-6-7, state that if the suspect refuses to take a preliminary breathalyzer test, the officer can proceed to read the implied consent warning and request that they submit to a certified chemical test. If the suspect refuses the certified test, their Indiana driver’s license will automatically be suspended for one year. Furthermore, despite a refusal, a police officer can still attempt to obtain a search warrant to have the suspect’s blood drawn or tested at a local hospital. If granted, and the ensuing test is conducted in a timely manner, the results of this certified blood test can be admissible in court.
Can You Get Specialized Driving Privileges for a Refusal Suspension?
Per Indiana Code 9-30-16-1, refusal suspensions generally disqualify a person from being able to obtain specialized driving privileges in Indiana. However, Indiana Code 9-30-6-8(d) does allow courts court to, as an alternative to any suspension of the person’s driving privileges, issue an order recommending that the person be prohibited from operating a motor vehicle unless the motor vehicle is equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device, certified by the Indiana State Department of Toxicology.
Are Breathalyzer’s Admissible in Court in Indiana?
Per Indiana breathalyzer laws, the results of a preliminary breathalyzer test (the kind carried out on the side of the road) are not admissible in court. However, the results of a certified breath sample or, more broadly, a certified chemical test are admissible in court. In order to obtain these results, a police officer would need to transport the suspect to an Intoximeter EC/IR II machine within three (3) hours of when they last operated the vehicle and test the suspect in compliance with 260 IAC 2.5-4-1. In order for this test to be admissible in court, the officer cannot deviate from the following procedure:
- Ensure that the person to be tested must not have had nothing to eat or drink; not have put any foreign substance into his or her mouth or respiratory tract; and not smoked; within fifteen (15) minutes before the time the first breath sample is taken or at any time from the taking of the first breath sample until after the taking of the final breath sample
- Verify that the instrument is in ready mode, as indicated by the instrument display; Press “Enter” key to start subject test
- Insert identification card into the barcode reader, or press the “Enter” key and use the keyboard to enter the breath test operator information requested by the instrument display
- When requested by the instrument display, enter the beginning date and time of the fifteen (15) minute deprivation period
- When requested by the instrument display, select “Y” or “N” to indicate whether the breath test operator had control of the subject during the fifteen (15) minute deprivation period
- If “N” is selected in previous step, when requested by the instrument display, enter the information of the officer with control of the subject during the fifteen (15) minute deprivation period
- Enter incident information requested by the instrument display.
- Enter subject information by:
- inserting the subject’s driver/operator license or identification card into the barcode reader; or
- pressing the “Enter” key and using the keyboard to enter the available subject information requested by the instrument display.
- When “Please blow” appears on the instrument display, place a mouthpiece on the breath tube. Instruct the subject to deliver a breath sample. Remove mouthpiece after delivery of a breath sample or when prompted by the instrument display. Repeat as prompted by the instrument display.
- Print the instrument report and remove it from the printer; verify that there is a numerical value for the subject’s breath alcohol concentration reported as the “RESULT” on the instrument report and sign the instrument report where indicated.
- If any of the following status messages is printed on the instrument report, proceed as follows:
- If “Interfering Substance” or “Mouth Alcohol” is printed on the instrument report obtain a blood sample for a chemical test; or repeat the fifteen (15) minute deprivation period and perform an additional breath test, beginning with STEP ONE. If “Interfering Substance” or “Mouth Alcohol” is printed on the instrument report after this additional breath test obtain a blood sample for a chemical test; or sign all instrument reports where indicated if a numerical value for the subject’s breath alcohol concentration is reported as the “RESULT” on any instrument report.
- If a status message not listed in this rule, excluding “Test Complete”, is printed on the instrument report:
- obtain a blood sample for a chemical test; or perform an additional breath test, beginning with STEP ONE.
- If a status message not listed in this rule, with the exception of “Test Complete”, is printed on the instrument report after this additional breath test:
- obtain a blood sample for a chemical test; or
- sign all instrument reports where indicated if a numerical value for the subject’s breath alcohol concentration is reported as the “RESULT” on any instrument report.
- If a subject refuses a test, the breath test operator should record that the test was refused and sign all reports where indicated.
Furthermore, even if the steps above are followed by the officer, there is still the possibility that the machine produces an error message. In situations like these, administrative code requires the officer to then follow a particular alternate procedure. Once again, the officer must follow the procedures required by the Indiana breathalyzer laws, without deviation, in order for the results to be admissible in court.
Further Questions about Indiana Breathalyzer Laws?
Although the Indiana breathalyzer laws may seem clear and straightforward, they do contain a tremendous amount of nuance. If you have further questions about these laws or have been charged with a DUI and would like to speak with an attorney about the manner in which your breathalyzer test was conducted, feel free to contact the Indiana drunk driving attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our two founding partners are both former Fatal Alcohol Crash (FACT) prosecutors, which means that they truly understand the intricacies of Indiana DUI law and provide our clients with effective, dynamic defense strategies aimed at securing the best possible outcome in the case against them.
To speak with an attorney today, call 317-751-7186 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.