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Maryland’s Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) 16-205.2

Following the field sobriety exercises (FSTs) the next “test” you may be asked to take is a Preliminary Breath Test or PBT. The PBT is a small device about the size of two cigarette packages stacked end to end. You may be asked to blow in the device and it will register a number similar to the “formal” machine back at the police station. There are several things you need to know about the PBT device vis a vis a DUI or drunk driving stop.

1. The test is completely voluntary on your part. You do not need to take it; the police may not even care if you do or don’t (unlike the FST tests which they will do everything they can to encourage and trick you into performing). However, there are certain legal rights the police are supposed to read you before they ask. The rights are covered by a statute known as 16-205.2 of the Transportation Article. Basically, it says the test is voluntary on your part and if you take it, you still will be required to take the breath test back at the station house. If you do elect to take the test, the result can NOT be used against you in a court of law. However, the purpose of the test is to aid the officer in the arrest decision.

2. A trick the cops like to play is to have you blow in their device and then not tell you what you blew. This makes it a little difficult for you to decide whether you want to blow back at the station house or not. Therefore, if you do decide to blow in the PBT device, it is wise to make an agreement with the cop ahead of time that you will blow in the device IF he agrees to immediately tell you the number. This information may help guide you in making an informed decision about what action to take at the police station where you will be asked to blow again.

3. It is important to understand and not be confused that whether you decide to blow or not blow in the PBT device, chances are that you still will be required to blow back at the station house. If you choose not to blow at the station house, you will face certain administrative MVA penalties and possibly additional tickets. Therefore, one may do whatever he pleases on the street with no repercussions, but understand your responsibility at the station house does not change. Of course, that’s not to say that blowing back at the station is always a good idea either, that decision must be considered based on a number of factors.

Bruce Robinson Maryland DUI Defense Lawyer Serving clients in Baltimore and surrounding counties