Question: Can you explain the Maryland breath test observation period?
Answer: The Maryland breath test observation period is 20 minutes. The police officer, under Maryland statute 16-205, 205.1, is required to have a sort of set aside period of time that they are supposed to be observing the DUI defendant to make sure he doesn’t put anything foreign in his mouth. And they are supposed to wait for about, well not about, specifically 20 minutes or more to make sure that any mouth alcohol they may have dissipates.
Because if somebody was leaving the bar and got arrested, and they just took a swig of whiskey or alcohol as they were walking out—if they got him in front of a machine and five, or ten, or 15 minutes later, the thought process is the person would have mouth alcohol residue still in their mouth, or as I indicated just a minute ago, there could be chewing gum, which of course has to be spit out, there could be dentures, there could be braces, there could be anything in the mouth that would allow alcohol to congregate in the mouth and if it does, these machines are very, very sensitive to even the smallest particles of alcohol, so if somebody has actual alcohol in their mouth, it’s going to skew the numbers dramatically.
It’s not even a small situation. If somebody has mouth alcohol and they blow it in there, it could be a, I mean a person could be a .05, which is actually a legal number, but if they have alcohol in their mouth, I mean it can elevate to .20 or something crazy that would cause the police and the courts to be very upset if they were driving, operating a car at a .20. So, that type of mouth alcohol has to be dissipated, and the 20-minute time period is specifically engineered to allow that happen. And that’s why it’s required.
And a police officer has to observe you too, so just because 20 minutes has gone by, if they haven’t observed you and made sure that you haven’t put anything in your mouth, well, that could be a problem for the defense. But, that is why there is a 20-minute period, because it’s very important that they make sure that all foreign bodies are given a chance to dissipate.