Thursday, December 1, 2011

Another Good Reason Not to Take a PAS Test

We know that California law allows motorists over 21 and not on probation to refuse a roadside breath test known as a PAS.  The test however is usually a bad idea inasmuch as it provides additional evidence of intoxication relating to DUI that can be used against you in Court.  A recent case reiterates another good reason to refuse taking the test.

Defendant Thomas was stopped for traffic violations. His eyes were bloodshot and watery. Defendant performed sobriety tests and consented to a PAS breath test that required him to place his mouth over the plastic tip of the PAS device and blow into it. Defendant was let go after passing all tests, but instead of discarding the mouthpiece of the PAS device, the police preserved it for DNA testing. The DNA profile derived from the mouthpiece linked defendant to two burglaries. A DNA sample obtained after defendant’s arrest matched genetic material recovered from five of the burglaries. Additional evidence implicating defendant in the burglaries was found when police searched his home pursuant to a warrant after his arrest.

Defendant appealed his convictions of the crimes arguing that testing the mouthpiece of the PAS device for DNA was a search that could not be conducted without a warrant under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The appellate court however disagreed holding that the DNA test was not a search because defendant abandoned any privacy right he had in the saliva he deposited on the police device.  The Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable governmental searches and seizures. A search occurs only when a government activity intrudes on an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, measured by the individual’s subjective expectation of privacy in the item searched and society’s objective recognition of the reasonableness of the individual’s subjective expectation of privacy.  People of California vs. Thomas.

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