How the 15-Minute Observation Period Can Help Your Orange County DUI Case

How the 15-Minute Observation Period Can Help Your Orange County DUI Case

The DUI breath test is designed to test the air in your lungs, not your mouth. It is widely known that mouth alcohol may affect the results of your breath test. Therefore, to combat mouth alcohol problems, California law requires a 15-minute observation period before administering a breath test (17 Cal. Code Regs. §1219.3). Specifically, the California Regulations provide that “the breath sample shall be collected only after the subject has been under continuous observation for at least fifteen minutes prior to collection of the breath sample, during which time the subject must not have ingested alcoholic beverages or other fluids, regurgitated, vomited, eaten, or smoked.”

Ambiguity Concerning the DUI 15-Minute Observation Period

The terms “continuous observation” in the California Regulations are somewhat vague. Your Orange County DUI lawyer will argue that “continuous observation” strictly requires that the police officer look at you continuously for the 15-minutes before you are given a breath test.

Conversely, police officers and prosecutors have a more liberal definition of the observation period, claiming that:

  • Observation time includes the time the police spent driving to the location of the breath machine (usually the police station);
  • A combination of several police officers can satisfy the 15-minute observation requirement; or
  • The requirement can be satisfied with senses other than the eyes, that is – the officer does not have to watch you.

Did the Arresting Officer Know the Reason for the Breath Test Observation Period?

During cross-examination of the arresting officer, your Orange County DUI defense lawyer may ask the officer whether he or she knows why the observation period is required. It is often the case that officers will respond that they do not know the reason behind the observation period because they have been taught to deny all knowledge regarding how breath machines work.

If your Orange County DUI lawyer is able to obtain testimony from the police officer that he or she did not understand the reason for the observation period, then your DUI lawyer can contend that it is more likely that the officer may not have performed the 15-minute observation properly. Your Orange County DUI lawyer can use this testimony to argue to the judge and/or jury that it is helpful to understand the purpose for a requirement in order to honor it.

Contact Orange County DUI Lawyers

Defending a DUI case properly requires sophisticated legal and technical knowledge.  You can rely on the experienced Orange County DUI attorneys at Coffey and Coffey to raise the best defenses available for your case. For a free consultation, please contact Coffey and Coffey at (800) 706-7888 today.