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The Difference Between a Breath Test and a Blood Test

If you are pulled over for DUI or DWAI in the State of Colorado, you may be suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both. If you are suspected of having consumed too much alcohol, the officer will give you a choice between a breath test or a blood test.

If the officer suspects that you are under the influence of drugs (marijuana, cocaine, pharmaceuticals, etc.), the officer can legally offer you either a saliva test, a blood test or a urine test.

In Colorado, I have only ever seen a blood test offered.

Blood vs. Breath Test: Weighing the Options

If you are offered a choice between a blood test or a breath test, which do you choose?

Well, it depends on your particular situation.

Personally, I am not a fan of the breath machine. I don’t think it is always 100% accurate. A blood test, on the other hand, is more likely to perceived as more reliable – though it takes longer to administer the test, you have to submit to a blood draw and is more expensive. [If you plead guilty or are convicted, you have to pay for the test.] Additionally, your providing a blood test may allow the officer to also have you tested for drugs. It also takes longer to get the results.

This is in part because if you choose a blood test, the officer must call for a blood technician to draw the blood. You’ll be taken to the station, made to wait for the technician, and have your blood drawn. [In some jurisdictions, you may be taken to the local hospital or urgent care facility.] Then the officer is responsible for making sure the blood sample gets to the lab.

That is a much more lengthy process than breathing into a Breathalyzer machine on the side of the road and receiving an instant result.

Officers May Push for the Breath Test

Many police officers have told my clients, “If you do a breath test, you’ll be out of the station really quickly and we’ll give you driving privileges.” But what they’re not mentioning is that the same is true of a blood test with regards to your driving privileges.

Yes, if you take a breath test you will be done more quickly and you will know your result right away. The blood test needs a few weeks to get the result back from the lab, depending on how busy the lab is.  However, the blood test allows you to have a retest to confirm the accuracy.

I always want my clients to be able to freely choose the test that they prefer without being influenced into taking one test over the other. A breath test is easier on the officer – because he or she is not responsible for taking the blood sample to the lab – but may not be as accurate. On the other hand, the breath test may give you more ability to challenge the test if you know you’re over the legal limit.

Most officers will not take your license away if you take a blood test simply because they do not know if you are intoxicated over the legal limit. However, if you take a breath test and are found to be over the legal limit, the officer can take your license but will give you a document that allows you to drive for 7 days. If you timely request a hearing, you will then be granted additional driving privileges until the DMV hearing.

So, either way, you’ll be able to drive home.

Take the test you prefer. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled or influenced into a test that isn’t right for you.

Have you been arrested for DUI or DWAI? We can help. Call our office today at (720) 999-9506 to set up a free consultation.