Question: What is the purpose of the required 15-minute observation period before an Oklahoma breath test? What happens if the officer fails to observe me for 15 minutes?
Answer: The purpose of the 15-minute observation period is what we call a deprivation period. But that 15-minute period is to make sure that there is no residual mouth alcohol before somebody takes a breath test. For example, if somebody had just sprayed their mouth with a breath freshener, like one of the mist-type breath fresheners, or had just consumed a drink of alcohol shortly before being stopped, they could have residual mouth alcohol.
Tests have shown that, supposedly, I’ve not seen all of the data on these tests, but supposedly any residual mouth alcohol that would be there would have dissipated or evaporated within, at the end of 15 minutes. So by observing the 15 minutes before they have somebody take a breath test, the purpose is to make sure that any, what they’re registering is actually what we call alveolar air, or alveolar gas alcohol. So it’s from, the alveolar air is from the deepest part of the lungs, and it’s to show that there’s alcohol actually in the blood stream and the percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream.
If they don’t observe that, number one it makes it an invalid test. Number two, and it can make it, it makes it an invalid test because the results are not reliable because it could be reading residual mouth alcohol. During the training that I have gone through, we have actually watched the instructor take a little stir stick, coffee stir stick, and put a couple of drops of alcohol, drinking alcohol under his tongue and immediately blow into a preliminary breath test and blew a .35. And we’d observed him all day long and knew, I know that he did not have any alcohol.
He waited five minutes, blows in the machine again, and it’s down to a .15. We wait another five minutes, and it’s back to a .00. And, I’m sorry, and he had blown prior to putting any alcohol under his tongue, and he’d blown a .00. So, by not checking somebody’s mouth and making sure that there’s nothing there, and making sure that, and if they fail to observe the 15-minutes properly, they can convict somebody that is in fact innocent of being under the influence.
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