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Breath Test Certification and Why It Can Make Or Break Your Case


Operating while intoxicated (OWI) charges are normally based on breath test results. However, for these results to be used in court, the police officer must follow strict procedures when performing the breath test in the field. Additionally, the officer operating the breath test machine must also be properly certified.

Recently, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed an OWI conviction because the officer was not properly trained and certified. The situation unfolded as follows. During a traffic stop, a police officer observed signs that the driver was possibly intoxicated. A breath test given at the jail resulted in a .16 blood alcohol content (BAC), twice the legal limit in Indiana. At the trial, the State sought to introduce the officer’s breath test operator certification, but during cross examination the officer admitted that he did not have training in the pharmacology of alcohol, the theory of the breath test equipment, the care and maintenance of breath test equipment, the legal aspects of breath testing, or in the interpretation of breath test results. These are all requirements to become a certified breath test operator. The trial court admitted the certification and the breath test result over a timely objection and the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction because the officer did not receive the training required to be certified and thus making the breath test unusable as evidence in the trial.

The successful outcome of this case for the defense shows the importance of hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at Vonderheide & Knecht. Defending OWI charges requires a detailed analysis of the evidence, including the procedures used during a breath test and the necessary qualifications for an officer to perform the test. As experience OWI attorneys, Vonderheide & Knecht aggressively and strategically defend OWI charges and understand the strict technical requirements for the admission of breath test results.

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