What is the 20-minute observation period in a DUI Case?

If you’re facing driving while under the influence (DUI) charges in New Jersey, it is critical to know that the arresting officer must comply with the 20-minute observation period before administering an Alcotest breathalyzer to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Facing a DUI charge can be a frightening experience, with hefty fines, license suspension, and even jail time being possible consequences. However, if the arresting officer did not comply with the observation period, you may have a defense to help you avoid these harsh penalties. If you’ve been charged with DUI, it is in your best interest to contact our experienced Bergen County DUI Attorneys, who can help you gather and examine evidence for possible defenses. 

What are the requirements for the 20-minute period observation period?

Due to implied consent laws, if an officer has reasonable cause for suspecting that you’re drunk driving, they have the authority to stop you and request that you submit to a breath test to determine your BAC level. As mentioned above, before an officer can administer a breath test, they must comply with the 20-minute observation period, in which they are required to observe you in a room by yourself. The primary reason for this requirement is to guarantee that no ingested or regurgitated substances could contaminate the breath sample. If you chew gum, belch, eat, or put anything in your mouth before the test is administered, the accuracy of the BAC measurement will be inaccurate, which can result in a false positive reading.

As such, during the observation period, the officer must ensure that nothing enters the breath cavity. When residual alcohol is in the mouth or throat, it contaminates your breath as you blow into the device, giving a falsely high BAC. If, during the 20-minute observation period, the officer sees something enter the breath cavity, they must start over to ensure an accurate reading. The same holds if the period is interrupted and the officer loses his observation before the period has ended.

What are the consequences of not complying with this rule?

If the arresting officer does not comply with the 20-minute observation period, it can result in the breath test being suppressed. Essentially, this means the court will not allow the prosecution to use the breath test in court as evidence against you, as it was not an accurate reading of your BAC. As a result, the prosecution may not have enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which could result in reduced or dropped charges.

If you’re facing DUI charges, contact a determined attorney from The Law Office of Carl Spector, who can help you explore all potential defenses that could help you prevent harsh penalties. With years of experience, you can trust our team to assist you in gathering evidence to determine whether the 20-minute observation period was correctly followed. Allow our firm to represent your interests today.