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DUI 101: Blood, Urine, and Breath Tests


If you get taken into custody for suspicion of operating a motor vehicle while impaired (OVI) in Ohio, you can expect to be asked to provide blood, urine, and breath samples for testing. Here are nine things you need to know about those chemical tests for evidence of driving under the influence.

Police have the ability to test for both alcohol and drugs.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn't illegal to drink and drive. BUT Ohio law does make it illegal to drive while impaired on alcohol, drugs, or a combination of them. In other words, you can't drive drunk, stoned, and/or high.

Police often use tests to analyze your impairment: while only alcohol use registers on a breath test, both alcohol and drug use can be detected by analyzing blood and urine. A high concentrations of drugs of abuse in your system, some of which are listed below, can be a crucial piece of evidence in the state's prosecution of an OVI offense:

  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • PCP
  • Salvia

Blood, urine, and breath test results justify an OVI arrest, and are used to seek convictions.

An adult driver whose tests reveal a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher faces immediate arrest for OVI. Drivers younger than 21 have a maximum legal BAC of .02, and commercial drivers cannot operate with a BAC of more than .04. Legal blood and urine concentrations of impairing drugs vary by type.

So, if you're testing over the legal limit, a prosecutor will try to use that test to secure your conviction.

You can refuse requests to participate in blood, urine, and breath tests.

You don't have to consent to a test an officer wants to perform on you. You can invoke your right not to self-incriminate yourself. And, you also have the right to contact a Columbus DUI breath test attorney before consenting to any chemical test for alcohol or drug use.

But if you refuse to consent to a breath test, there are consequences. So know them.

Ohio law authorizes police to immediately seize and suspend the driver's license of any OVI suspect who refuses a breath test. And you can even be charged with a separate type of OVI offense, if you refuse to submit a breath test when you've been convicted of an OVI-related offense before.

You can read more about these types of administrative license suspensions and how to contest them on this Campbell Law webpage.

You cannot cheat a test.

Worse than failing, any attempt to foul a sample or tamper with a device may raise suspicions regarding your state of intoxication. So, don't try to "beat" the test.

If you do consent to a test, tell the officer and testing technician about any medications you take.

Many prescription medications contain the drugs that blood and urine tests are designed to detect. Others have active ingredients that mimic the effects of those drugs. For instance, some attention-deficit and sleep disorder medications contain amphetamines, while high doses of several pain meds can produce the same physical effects as heroin.

You do not need to test "positive" to get arrested and convicted for OVI.

Even though officers have these tests at their disposal, they don't always use them. And, the fact that you weren't tested does not mean you can't get convicted. There are different types of OVI offenses. And they don't all require a blood, breath, or urine test to secure a conviction.

Along with a blood, urine, or breath test, a judge or jury will consider other evidence as well: from testimony of an officer who made the arrest, to the video of how you performed while taking field sobriety tests, to testimony from testing facility personnel or other witnesses about your impairment.

You should not assume that the test an officer administers will be allowed to be used in the case against you.

For example, the results of a portable breath test-a breath test that a police officer administers on scene-shouldn't be used in court. Instead, only chemical tests performed in state-permitted facilities (usually hospitals) produce results that can actually be used against you. So if you're asked to submit to a portable breath test, it's only use is for the benefit of the police officer, to help the police officer make a decision on whether you will be arrested.

Also, for a chemical test to be used against you, the police officer must demonstrate that he fully explained certain things to you, even if you have consented.

And, if you don't consent, then any test can usually only be obtained from you if that officer has search warrant.

Blood, urine, and breath test results can be challenged.

A Columbus, Ohio DUI defense attorney will review how the tests were conducted, have the testing equipment evaluated for accuracy, and collect and present any other information that explains why a test result may be incorrect.

If you need help with an OVI case, contact Campbell Law today to request a no-cost consultation. You can also learn more about chemical tests by visiting this webpage.

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