State v. Buckland: The Admissibility of Breath Test Results in a DUI Trial

Tags: DUI

State v. Buckland, a case from the Connecticut Supreme Court, involved a defendant (“Defendant”) who was convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the Influence (DUI) of intoxicating liquor and operating a motor vehicle while having an elevated blood-alcohol content (BAC).

In Alabama, your BirminghamDUI defense attorney can explain that the legal limit is 0.08 grams of ethanol (drinking alcohol) per 100 milliliters of blood.

In Buckland, Defendant was driving his car when a state special constable, using radar gun, observed him traveling at 50mph in a 34mph zone. The constable pulled Defendant over after he had driven an additional seven-tenths of mile before stopping.

When the officer approached the driver’s side of the vehicle, he detected an odor of alcohol through Defendant’s open widow. The officer noted in his police report that Defendant’s speech was a slurred, and his eyes were glossy. Defendant also had difficulty getting his documents from the glove compartment and wallet. Defendant admitted that he had two glasses of wine prior to driving.

While instructing Defendant on how to perform the field sobriety tests, the constable observed him to be swaying. After administering the three field sobriety tests, the constable determined that Defendant had failed and placed him under arrest for suspicion of drunk driving.

During booking, Defendant was advised of his rights with respect to taking a breath test using the Draeger Alcotest 9510 instrument. It should be noted that this device is currently considered one of the more advanced breath testing machines. He was given two breath tests, as required by the manufacturer, and his scores were 0.2217 and 0.2173, respectively. Both are more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Prior to trial, Defendant, through his attorney, filed a motion to exclude the results of the Draeger instrument on grounds that the printouts violated the confrontation clause in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The trial judge denied this motion.

At trial, the state introduced the documents produced by the machine and the testimony of a witness from the director of the state toxicology laboratory. This expert witness testified about the effects of alcohol on the human body and the results obtained when Defendant was subjected to testing. Specifically, he testified that Defendant had a BAC consistent with drinking 11 alcoholic beverages.

Defendant appealed his conviction on grounds that the judge had erred in denying his motion to exclude the breath test results. His claim was based on the fact that the state had not produced a number of witnesses to establish that the machine was properly calibrated and maintained. The state contended that the witnesses they produced were sufficient to establish a proper foundation for the admissibility of the breath scores.

The state supreme court ultimately affirmed Defendant’s conviction for DUI. The court held that the state is not required to present every witness in the chain of custody to testify. The court held that the witnesses who were present and testified were able to establish that the machine was working and properly calibrated.

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