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Requested breath test for blood alcohol concentration ruled legal

Officers use many different methods for testing the blood alcohol concentration of suspected drunk drivers. Breathalyzers are a common tool employed by Wisconsin law enforcement to create a preliminary analysis of a person's BAC. These tools may not always render accurate results, and human error can play a large factor in the conclusions reached by officers using the tools. Those who have been stopped while driving or otherwise forced to take a Breathalyzer test should seek to understand their rights and options under the law.

The District II Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected the claim made in a case earlier this week that a breath analysis made at the request of a probation officer constituted an unlawful search. The case involved a woman who was reporting to her probation officer. The officer asked police to administer a breath test, which allegedly revealed the presence of alcohol. The woman was then arrested for drunk driving. She claimed that police conducted the test unlawfully because they did not have reasonable suspicion to administer it.

The court determined that the test was legal because it was carried out at the probation officer's request and not for an "independent police purpose." In other words, the test was performed under the auspices of a legal "probation search," and, in administering the test, the responding police officer served only as an assistant to the probation officer.

Unreasonable searches and seizures are a serious concern for many citizens accused of crimes. Understanding a person's rights, the potential faults of BAC-measuring equipment and the many factors that influence a drunk driving case can help someone accused of such crimes start to build a solid defense against the charges.

Source: State Bar of Wisconsin, "Breath Test by Police at Probation Office not an Unlawful Police Search," Joe Forward, Oct. 25, 2012

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