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Chemical Test vs. PBT?

Many people are confused by the difference between a “Preliminary Breath Test,” commonly referred to as a “PBT” and an “Chemical Test.” Unfortunately, if you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, the officer may not take the time to explain the difference to you, and your rights concerning each type of test are quite different.

In Michigan, a “Preliminary Breath Test” or “PBT” refers to a handheld device that a police officer typically administers to someone suspected of drunk driving on the side of the road or in the patrol car. It is important to note, that in the vast majority of circumstances, the results of a PBT are not admissible in court. The exceptions to that rule can be found in MCL 257.625a(2)(b). The reason officers typically request a PBT is so that they can establish probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving. The results of a PBT are usually combined with the results of Field Sobriety Tasks (“FSTs”) to enable the officer to ultimately arrest you.

It is important to note that refusing a PBT in Michigan will most likely result in you being issued a civil infraction ticket. This is similar to a speeding ticket. However, refusing a PBT does not result in any suspension or restriction of your driver’s license, nor does it result in any points being added to your driving record.

If you are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, the officer will most likely request that you submit to a “chemical test.” According to the law, in Michigan the officer is supposed to do so by reading, verbatim, a form called a DI-177 to you which attempts to explain your chemical test rights. Unfortunately, this form can be quite confusing, and many people do not understand their rights. A chemical test can consist of either another breath test, typically administered at the jail, called a Datamaster test, a urine test, or a blood test. The officer has discretion in deciding which type of test to request. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, the officer will mostly likely report that refusal to the Secretary of State, which will trigger what is known as an Implied Consent Suspension and could result in the loss of your driving privileges as well as points being added to your driving record. While you do not have a say as to which kind of chemical test an officer requests, you do have the right to request an independent chemical test as well, and the officer must make reasonable accommodations for you to do so.

If you have been accused of refusing a PBT or chemical test, contact us so we can help!