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What is the 15-minute observation period for a breathalyzer test in Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island Department of Health has created regulations for breathalyzer machines used by the police in Rhode Island. These regulations state that when somebody is being administered a breathalyzer test, the police need to observe the person for 15 minutes prior to having them take the test. They are supposed to make sure the person has not ingested anything or put something in their mouth. The reasoning is to make sure the person has not done something that could affect the accuracy of the test. The police are not required to stare at the person for the whole 15 minutes.

Video of the 15-Minute Observation Period  

Police Departments are not necessarily required to have video of the 15-minute observation period with a breathalyzer test. However, many of them have video of this process. This can be requested in the discovery process. An experienced DUI attorney in Rhode Island will likely try to obtain this video and see if there is anything that can be seen that could be used in the person's defense if they are charged with DUI and/or Refusal

What is the Procedure for Administration of Breath Tests in Rhode Island? 

The procedures from the Rhode Island Department of Health state the following for “Administration of Breath Tests”:

  1. A complete breath test shall consist of two (2) valid breath samples.
  2. The breath samples shall be taken after the suspect has been observed for a minimum of fifteen (15) minutes to ensure that the suspect has not ingested or inserted any substance into his/her mouth, or caused any residual mouth alcohol to occur. This observation period does not require the officer or person administering the test to stare continuously at the suspect.
  3. The breath samples shall be collected within fifteen (15) minutes of each other and the results reported as the alcohol level based upon grams of alcohol per two hundred ten (210) liters of breath. To be acceptable as a valid breath test, the two (2) results shall be within +/- 0.020 g/210L and taken within fifteen (15) minutes of each other. If the results of the first and second sample are more than +/- 0.020 g/210L apart, a third sample shall be analyzed.
  4. To be acceptable as a valid breath test, any two (2) of the three (3) results shall be within +/- 0.020 g/210L and taken within fifteen (15) minutes of each other. In the event the person tested fails to provide the required number of valid breath samples, then this event shall constitute a refusal in accordance with R.I Gen. Laws § 31-27-2.1. If this process exceeds the allocated time, a second series may be implemented to satisfy the requirements of obtaining a valid breath test.
  5. Each breath test shall be administered in accordance with the procedures for the instrument used, as prescribed by the Director.
  6. When a law enforcement agency uses any approved breath analysis instrument, the accuracy of the instrument shall be tested by the internal detectors of the instrument. The result of the internal test shall be printed on the record.
  7. Care shall be taken to ensure that a new and uncontaminated mouth piece is used for each breath test administered.

Contact a DUI Lawyer about the 15-Minute Observation Period

If you have been charged with a DUI or Refusal and have questions about the 15-minute observation period, contact an experienced DUI lawyer today from the Law Office of David Ellison today at 401-230-5520. 

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