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Navigating DUI Testing in Arizona: Preliminary Breath Test vs. Implied Consent Tests

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If you’re driving in Arizona, you might be asked to take a breath or blood test to check for alcohol. It can be a stressful experience, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the laws surrounding these tests. This guide aims to clear up some of the confusion.

We’ll take a deep dive into two types of tests:

  • Preliminary Breath Test (PBT)
  • Implied Consent Tests (Breath or Blood Tests)

You might be wondering why these two tests are essential.

Did you know that in 2019, Arizona had over 27,000 DUI arrests? Understanding these tests can make a massive difference in such a situation.

The preliminary Breath Test (PBT) is often the first tool used by law enforcement to gauge a driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Governed by Arizona Revised Statutes 28-1321, PBT is a voluntary field sobriety test that helps establish probable cause for a DUI arrest but is not legally binding. If the PBT shows a BAC above the legal limit (0.08% in Arizona), the driver is usually arrested and subjected to Implied Consent Tests at a police station, which are more accurate and mandatory under the law. Refusing these tests can lead to immediate penalties, such as a year-long suspension of driving privileges.

When it comes to defending against DUI charges stemming from PBT or Implied Consent Tests, multiple strategies can be employed. Questioning the lawfulness of the stop, the administration of the tests, or the handling of blood samples can all be part of a legal defense. Specialized conditions, such as medical or dietary factors, can also be used to challenge test results. Given the complexity and high stakes of DUI cases, legal representation is often essential for handling the intricacies of Arizona’s DUI laws and procedures.

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Preliminary Breath Test vs. Implied Consent Tests

Understanding the Concept of Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) in Arizona

When an officer stops a driver suspected of DUI, one of the first tools they might use is the Preliminary Breath Test or PBT.

As defined by the Arizona Revised Statutes 28-1321, this test is a portable device used to measure a person’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) on the spot.

It’s important to know that PBT is not as definitive as other sobriety tests; instead, it’s a tool to help law enforcement officers determine if there is probable cause to arrest a person for DUI.

A vital characteristic of the PBT is that it is considered a field sobriety test. Meaning it’s conducted on the field, right where the driver was pulled over. The officer uses a handheld device called a breathalyzer test, which the driver breathes into. The device then provides a reading of the driver’s current BAC.

It’s crucial to understand that the PBT is optional.

It means you can refuse to take it without any legal penalties.

However, the officer may still arrest you based on other observations, such as erratic driving, slurred speech, or failing other field sobriety tests.

These observations can be used as probable cause for an arrest, leading to a more definitive sobriety test at the police station – the Implied Consent Test.

The PBT is a double-edged sword. While it can serve as evidence of sobriety, it can also provide the officer with probable cause for arrest if the result shows a BAC over the legal limit, which is 0.08% in Arizona.

If you are facing a DUI charge stemming from a PBT, a seasoned DUI defense lawyer from Colburn Hintze Maletta can help decipher the intricacies of your case and guide you through your defense.

An In-depth Look at Implied Consent Laws in Arizona

When you receive your driver’s license in Arizona, you implicitly agree to comply with the state’s implied consent laws.

But what does this mean in terms of sobriety tests?

According to Arizona Revised Statutes 28-1321, the implied consent law means that by driving a vehicle in Arizona, you consent to a chemical test such as a breath, blood, or urine test if law enforcement suspects you driving under the influence.

Here’s where things get slightly more serious than the preliminary breath test.

The implied consent tests, often administered at a police station or hospital, are not optional like the PBT.

Suppose you refuse to submit to an implied consent test after being lawfully arrested for a DUI. In that case, you face immediate consequences, like the automatic suspension of your driver’s license for a year. This suspension applies regardless of whether you were intoxicated or not.

These tests are designed to provide a more accurate measure of your BAC than the PBT.

The breath test administered under the implied consent law is often done using a more sophisticated, stationary device at the police station. A medical professional draws blood tests, which are the most accurate. They not only determine the presence of alcohol but can also detect the presence of drugs in your system.

The stakes are high with implied consent tests.

Any test result showing a BAC of 0.08% or above is grounds for a DUI charge.

Additionally, refusal or failure to complete the test can be used against you in court.

Given these high stakes, having a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer like those at Colburn Hintze Maletta is crucial. We can help you understand your rights and options when faced with an implied consent test and guide you through the process.

When understanding DUI laws in Arizona, the best source is the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS), the state’s official compilation of laws. Both the PBT and Implied Consent tests have a foundation in ARS.

The PBT’s legality and parameters fall under ARS 28-1321.

This statute states that any person operating a motor vehicle in Arizona consents to a test or tests of the person’s breath, blood, urine, or other bodily substance to determine alcohol concentration or drug content.

The law, however, does not mandate that drivers submit to the PBT, making it an optional test.

On the other hand, the Implied Consent test is a much more formal and legally bound procedure.

Under the same ARS 28-1321, by driving in Arizona, you consent to your breath, blood, or urine tests if you are lawfully arrested for DUI.

Refusing such a test can lead to immediate penalties, such as a 12-month suspension of your driving privileges.

But that’s not all there is to these laws. ARS 28-1381 outlines the criminal charges for DUI offenses, indicating that if a person has a BAC of 0.08% or higher, they can be charged with a DUI. This level drops to 0.04% if the driver operates a commercial vehicle and is 0.00% for drivers under 21.

The Process of Administering a Preliminary Breath Test

Administering a preliminary breath test in Arizona is a relatively simple procedure.

Still, it’s important to remember that the PBT is a screening device, not a definitive measure of a person’s blood alcohol content.

  • First, the officer will inform you that they suspect you’ve been driving under the influence and would like to conduct a breath test using a handheld device. This is the PBT. The officer will explain that this test is entirely voluntary.


  • Next, if you agree to the test, the officer will instruct you on breathing into the device. It’s not as simple as just blowing into it; a specific deep-lung breath technique needs to be used to get a reliable reading. The officer should explain this to you.


  • The PBT device will then analyze the breath sample and provide a reading of your BAC. It’s essential to understand that this reading is an approximation. The handheld devices used in PBTs aren’t as accurate as the breathalyzers used at the police station or the hospital blood tests.


  • If the PBT shows a BAC above the legal limit (0.08% for most drivers, lower for commercial drivers, and underage drivers), the officer now has probable cause to arrest you for DUI. From this point, you’ll be taken to the police station for an implied consent test.

Implied Consent Tests

Comparing Accuracy: PBT vs. Implied Consent Tests

Accuracy is a key factor when discussing the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) and Implied Consent Tests. Each of these tests has different levels of precision, which can significantly influence the results and their interpretation in court.

Let’s start with the PBT. This is a field test administered using a handheld device. While it can provide a quick estimate of a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC), it’s not known for its accuracy. Factors such as device calibration, the officer’s training, and even the individual’s health conditions can influence the reading.

For these reasons, the PBT result is generally used to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest, but it’s not admissible in court to prove a DUI charge.

Implied Consent Tests, on the other hand, involve more accurate procedures. These include breath tests conducted with more sophisticated devices at a police station or blood tests at a medical facility. These tests are designed to provide an accurate BAC reading.

Blood tests are the most accurate method for determining BAC.

They can also detect the presence of drugs in a person’s system. However, even these tests are not foolproof. Issues such as improper blood sample storage, contamination, or delays in testing can affect the results.

Regardless of the accuracy, any test showing a BAC of 0.08% or higher can result in a DUI charge in Arizona.

With so much at stake, having a knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer from Colburn Hintze Maletta can be crucial. Our experienced lawyers can challenge the validity of the tests and work towards a fair outcome.

Defending Against DUI Charges Stemming from PBT or Implied Consent Tests

If you’re facing DUI charges stemming from the results of a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) or an Implied Consent Test, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what steps to take next. It’s crucial to remember that a charge is not a conviction, and you have options.

A skilled DUI defense lawyer from Colburn Hintze Maletta can help navigate this challenging terrain, challenging the test results and arguing for your rights.


  1. Questioning the Lawfulness of the Stop: The law requires law enforcement to have reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop. If the officer cannot provide a valid reason for the stop, all evidence obtained after the stop, including test results, may be inadmissible in court.
  2. Challenging the Administration of the Tests: PBT and Implied Consent Tests must be administered correctly to produce accurate results. If the officer didn’t properly conduct the tests or the testing equipment was not correctly calibrated or maintained, these could be grounds to challenge the results.
  3. Contesting the Lawfulness of the Arrest: For an arrest to be valid, the officer needs probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence. Without clear evidence, the arrest, and subsequent Implied Consent Test, could be argued as unlawful.
  4. Arguing Medical or Physical Conditions: Certain medical and physical conditions can affect the results of both breath and blood tests. Diabetes, GERD, certain diets, and even some types of mouthwash can affect breath test results.
  5. Questioning the Handling of the Blood Samples: If your defense is related to a blood test, the handling, storage, and analysis of the samples could be questioned. Improper handling or delays in analysis can compromise the results.
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Strategies for Challenging PBT and Implied Consent Test Results

Challenging the results of a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) or an Implied Consent Test can be crucial to your defense strategy. 

With a seasoned DUI defense lawyer from Colburn Hintze Maletta by your side, there are multiple angles from which these results can be questioned:

  1. Procedural Errors: Inconsistent administration, inadequate training of the officer conducting the test, and failure to observe the person for a required amount of time before the test can all be targeted as procedural errors that could compromise the validity of the test results.
  2. Device Malfunction or Misuse: Devices used for breath tests must be correctly calibrated and regularly maintained to provide accurate results. If it can be shown that the device was malfunctioning, not appropriately calibrated, or was misused, the results may be challenged.
  3. Physical or Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions or physical factors can falsely elevate BAC readings on breath tests. These include acid reflux, diabetes, certain diets, and even the use of mouthwashes or breath fresheners.
  4. Chain of Custody Issues: Particularly for blood tests, any breaks in the chain of custody, inappropriate handling, or contamination of the sample can be grounds to challenge the accuracy of the results.
  5. Failure to Advise of Rights: If an officer fails to properly advise you of your rights and the consequences of refusal before an Implied Consent Test, this could provide a basis to challenge the admissibility of the test results. 
  6. Independent Blood Test: Under Arizona law, you have the right to an independent blood test after submitting to a state-administered test. If law enforcement interferes with this right, it may be possible to challenge the state’s test results.

Impact of PBT and Implied Consent Test Results on Your DUI Case

In a DUI case, the results of a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) or Implied Consent Test can significantly influence the proceedings and outcome.

Let’s break down their potential impacts.

  1. Probable Cause for Arrest: The results of a PBT can establish probable cause for a DUI arrest. A positive PBT result, indicating a BAC over the legal limit, could lead to you being taken into custody and subjected to more accurate Implied Consent Tests.
  2. Prosecution’s Evidence: The results of an Implied Consent Test can be a key piece of evidence in your DUI prosecution. A reading of 0.08% BAC or higher can lead to a standard DUI charge, while a reading of 0.15% BAC or higher can lead to an Extreme DUI charge, carrying harsher penalties.
  3. Driver’s License Suspension: Refusal to submit to an Implied Consent Test can result in an automatic 12-month suspension of your driving privileges, regardless of the outcome of the DUI case.
  4. Increased Penalties: The results of Implied Consent Tests can affect the penalties you face. Higher BAC levels generally result in more severe penalties, and a refusal can lead to increased penalties due to Arizona’s Implied Consent Law.
  5. Insurance Premiums: A DUI conviction, often based on the results of an Implied Consent Test, can significantly increase your car insurance premiums.

These impacts demonstrate the seriousness of DUI charges and the potential implications of PBT and Implied Consent Test results.

In such situations, securing representation from an experienced DUI defense lawyer from Colburn Hintze Maletta can help you navigate the complexities of your case and mitigate these potential impacts.

Understanding your rights regarding the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) and Implied Consent Tests in Arizona is paramount when facing a potential DUI situation.

Let’s break them down:

  1. Right to Refuse a PBT: You can refuse to take a PBT. However, the officer may use your refusal to establish probable cause for your arrest and further testing. 
  2. Right to Informed Consent: Before administering an Implied Consent Test, the officer must inform you about the consequences of refusal. This includes a potential one-year suspension of your driver’s license.
  3. Right to an Independent Test: After submitting an Implied Consent Test, you have the right to an independent blood test to verify the results. Officers must not interfere with your attempts to obtain this independent test.
  4. Right to Legal Counsel: Upon arrest, you have the right to consult with an attorney. To protect your rights, it’s strongly recommended to exercise this right and contact a seasoned DUI defense lawyer, like those at Colburn Hintze Maletta.
  5. Right to a Hearing: If your license is suspended due to refusal or failure of an Implied Consent Test, you have the right to request a hearing to contest the suspension.
  6. Protection from Self-Incrimination: Your refusal to submit to an Implied Consent Test can’t be used against you to imply guilt in a criminal trial. However, it can lead to an administrative license suspension and can be introduced as evidence in your DUI trial.

Knowing your rights can shape your choices during a DUI stop and could significantly impact the outcome of any subsequent legal proceedings.

A DUI defense lawyer from Colburn Hintze Maletta can provide advice tailored to your situation, helping you navigate these complex situations.

The Law Office of Colburn Hintze Maletta is Here to Help

Understanding the nuances of Preliminary Breath Tests and Implied Consent Tests in Arizona can significantly affect a DUI case’s outcome. From understanding your rights to knowing the potential implications of test results, this knowledge is invaluable when facing such charges.

At Colburn Hintze Maletta, our experienced DUI defense lawyers can provide the expertise and guidance you need to navigate these complex legal waters. Our team is dedicated to protecting your rights and delivering a robust defense to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

If you or a loved one are facing DUI charges, don’t hesitate to ask for the legal support you deserve. Contact us at Colburn Hintze Maletta by dialing 602-825-2500.

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