Police Procedure: Preliminary Roadside Breath Testing

Drink Driving Police Procedure

Preliminary Alcohol Breath Testing police Procedure


Random police vehicle stops

The police have the power to stop vehicles at random, however they do not have the power to perform completely random preliminary breath alcohol tests.

The police have the power to stop vehicles as provided under s. 163 of The Road Traffic Act 1988 [1] which states:
  1. A person driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road must stop the vehicle on being required to do so by a constable in uniform or a traffic officer
  2. A person riding a cycle on a road must stop the cycle on being required to do so by a constable in uniform or a traffic officer
  3. If a person fails to comply with this section he is guilty of an offence

Once a vehicle has been stopped, the police then have a range of other powers that they may exercise depending on the circumstances.

The following concentrates on information pertaining to alcohol related road traffic offences and breath alcohol testing procedure.


Preliminary Breath Alcohol Tests

What is a preliminary breath alcohol test?

s. 6A of The Road Traffic Act 1988 [1] states:

(1) A preliminary breath test is a procedure whereby the person to whom the test is administered provides a specimen of breath to be used for the purpose of obtaining, by means of a device of a type approved by the Secretary of State, an indication whether the proportion of alcohol in the person’s breath or blood is likely to exceed the prescribed limit.

The power to administer preliminary breath alcohol tests is given to police officers under s. 6 of The Road Traffic Act 1988 [1] which states:

Power to administer preliminary tests

(1) If any of subsections (2) to (5) applies a [police] constable may require a person to co-operate with any one or more preliminary tests administered to the person by that constable or another constable.

(2) [...] if a [police] constable reasonably suspects that the person—

  1. is driving, is attempting to drive or is in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, and
  2. has alcohol or a drug in his body or is under the influence of a drug.

(3) [...] if a [police] constable reasonably suspects that the person—

  1. has been driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place while having alcohol or a drug in his body or while unfit to drive because of a drug, and
  2. still has alcohol or a drug in his body or is still under the influence of a drug.

(4) [...] if a [police] constable reasonably suspects that the person—

  1. is or has been driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, and
  2. has committed a traffic offence while the vehicle was in motion.

(5) [Or...] if —

  1. an accident occurs owing to the presence of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, and
  2. a constable reasonably believes that the person was driving, attempting to drive or in charge of the vehicle at the time of the accident.

(6) A person commits an offence if without reasonable excuse he fails to co-operate with a preliminary test in pursuance of a requirement imposed under this section.

(7) A [police] constable may administer a preliminary test by virtue of any subsections (2) to (4) only if he is in uniform.

This effectively gives the police the power to administer a preliminary roadside breath alcohol test if a police officer reasonably suspects that a person:

a) is currently driving, attempting to drive or is in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or
b) has been driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or
c) has committed a traffic offence while driving a vehicle that was in motion regardless of whether or not the police officer reasonably suspects a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A police officer will administer a preliminary breath alcohol test as a matter of routine if they reasonably believe a person was driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a vehicle at the time of an accident on a road or other public place. If this is the case then there is no requirement for them to reasonably suspect a person is under the influence before the requirement for a preliminary breath test is made.

Reasonable suspicion and reasonable belief

Whether or not a police officer reasonably believed or reasonably suspected is a question of fact and can be determined by examining all available evidence and statements in relation to the offence. In order to reasonably believe, a police officer must have a greater degree of certainty than they would need to reasonably suspect.

A police officer may reasonably suspect that a person has committed an alcohol related traffic offence if:

  • The person admits that they have drank alcohol
  • The police officer smells alcohol
  • The persons face is flushed or they have bloodshot or glazed eyes or any other visible signs of possible intoxication
  • The persons reactions are uncoordinated or slow
  • The manner in which they were driving was erratic or unusually slow and cautious
  • The police have been given information regarding a specific driver who is thought to be driving while intoxicated

The above list is not comprehensive, as long as the police officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a person is or has been driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol then they may legally require that person to take a road-side breath test.


Failing to co-operate with preliminary roadside breath test

Any person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to co-operate with a preliminary roadside alcohol breath test (failure includes refusal) is guilty of an offence which is punishable by a fine and penalty points.

If a person fails to co-operate with a preliminary breath test without reasonable excuse, they will be arrested and will be required to provide an evidential specimen for analysis.

The alcohol breath testing device used to conduct a preliminary breath alcohol test must be one that is type approved by the Secretary of State.


Drink driving police arrest

A police officer may arrest a driver without warrant if:

A) the results of the preliminary breath test lead the police officer to reasonably suspect that the proportion of alcohol in the persons breath exceeds the legal prescribed limit of 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath OR
B) a person fails to co-operate with a preliminary roadside alcohol breath test OR
C) the police officer reasonably suspects that the person has alcohol or a drug in his body or is under the influence of a alcohol or a drug and has been or is driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place.

The power of arrest does not apply to hospital patients

Once arrested a person will be required to provide an evidential specimen for analysis. The evidential specimen can either be a specimen of breath, a specimen of blood or a specimen of urine.

Department for Transport -
Code of Practice for Preliminary Impairment Tests

Reference

[1] The Road Traffic Act 1988

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