The Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) is a portable device used to measure breath alcohol on roadside traffic stops. It is not considered particularly accurate, and it is admissible in court for only a limited number of purposes. This test is not the “Datamaster” test, and it is not administered at the police station.
If a police officer has reasonable cause to believe that a driver may be intoxicated, the officer may request that a motorist submit to a preliminary breath test. The police officer may arrest the driver based upon the results of a preliminary chemical breath analysis. Given that 1) the device is not considered accurate and 2) a police officer can arrest a driver based upon the device’s results, it is not advisable for someone to submit to a PBT. It is only a civil infraction for a motorist to refuse a preliminary breath test, with fines up to $200.00.Note, however, that it is a misdemeanor for a commercial driver to refuse a PBT.
The PBT is admissible in court for only the three following purposes:
(i) To determine the validity of an arrest.
(ii) As rebuttal evidence that the defendant’s breath alcohol content was higher at the time of driving.
(iii) As rebuttal evidence that the defendant’s breath alcohol content was lower at the time of driving.