Thompson Law Office

Iowa City OWI Defense Blog

The PBT (Preliminary Breath Test) is Not Admissible in Court for OWI

One of the tools an Iowa peace officer has in his possession is the PBT, or the preliminary breath test. This handheld device is used in the field to give the officer an idea of the level of intoxication of a suspect. In regard to an Iowa OWI investigation, this “number” is not admissible in court to determine guilt or innocence of the OWI charge.

Breath analyzer for measuring blood alcohol content isolated on white background. 3D render.

Breath analyzer for measuring blood alcohol content isolated on white background. 3D render.

If the charge were Public Intoxication, this information is allowed. However, with an OWI investigation, the PBT numbers are simply used to help the officer determine if the investigation should continue down at the police station or if the suspect should be released.

The machine at the police station is the Datamaster breath machine. This device is much more accurate than the PBT, and it will be used to determine what level of sanction (if any) the Iowa DOT will place upon the driver. A refusal of the Datamaster test can result in Iowa DOT sanctions.

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