Almost all DUI cases involve some kind of chemical test—either a breath test, blood test or urine test. But the state of California has a code of regulations for how these tests are performed, known as Title 17. If any of these regulations weren’t followed in your case, the test results may not be reliable, which makes a strong defense against the DUI charge itself.
What is Title 17 and how does it affect my DUI case?
Title 17 is a section of the California Code of Regulations. It governs all aspects of the chemical tests involved in DUI, from who is allowed to perform them to how often the equipment is calibrated. Taken as a whole, Title 17 is a big, complicated pile of bureaucratic rules—which is good for your case. The rules exist to make sure that your rights as a DUI defendant are not violated. If any one of these rules was broken, it means the results of your test may not be any good. This could help you beat your DUI.
How does a Title 17 violation help my case?
If your lawyer finds evidence of a Title 17 violation, they can challenge the validity of your test results. In other words, if you were given a breath test for blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and it says you had a BAC of .10%, it may have been wrong. You may have had a much lower BAC even if you really were drinking—and you may not even have been over the legal limit of .08%. This doesn’t prove you’re innocent. But it does undermine one of the biggest pieces of evidence against you.
What happens next depends on the specifics of your case. You don’t automatically go free just because Title 17 rules were broken. But the prosecutor has to decide whether they want to push the DUI charge without their best evidence. Generally, one of three things will happen:
- The prosecutor will offer to reduce your DUI to a much less serious charge
- The prosecutor may decide to drop your DUI case altogether, meaning you win
- If you’re forced to go to court, your lawyer may have a better chance of getting you found Not Guilty
What are the most common Title 17 violations?
There are hundreds of ways a DUI chemical test can potentially go wrong. Most of them are unintentional—officers do not usually break Title 17 rules on purpose, because they know it weakens their case. Below are some of the most common errors we see, based on the type of test you are given.
- Officers do not observe a 15-minute observation period before giving you the breath test, or don’t pay close attention during this period.
- The breath test device wasn’t calibrated often enough. Title 17 requires that it is calibrated either after every 150 uses, or every 10 days, whichever is sooner. Officers sometimes mix this up and use a device that breaks one of these two conditions.
- The officer operating the device doesn’t have the proper training. This also happens by accident—most officers are trained on some kind of breath test device, but not all devices are the same. If the officer uses a device that he or she wasn’t trained for, it breaks the rules.
- The blood sample didn’t have enough preservative mixed into it. Preservative is used to make sure the blood doesn’t ferment, falsely increasing its alcohol level.
- The blood sample didn’t have enough anticoagulant mixed into it, which may mean clotting affected its chemical composition.
- The preservative or anticoagulant (or both) were past their expiration date.
- The sample had both the preservative and the anticoagulant, but they were not adequately mixed together with the blood.
- The sample wasn’t stored under the correct, state-mandated conditions.
- The sample wasn’t kept for 1 full year as required by law, or otherwise wasn’t available for independent testing by your defense team.
- The lab that analyzes the blood sample does not follow the standards required by the state, or has experienced issues that call their standards into question.
- The officer did not ask you to urinate once before urinating for the sample, to clear your bladder before the test.
- The officer did have you clear your bladder, but didn’t wait at least 20 minutes to have you urinate again and provide your sample.
- Just as with a blood sample, either the urine sample wasn’t stored properly, wasn’t kept long enough, or was tested by a lab that doesn’t meet standards.
These are just a few examples of the most common Title 17 violations. There are many others.
What kind of evidence do I need to use this defense?
You will need technical evidence based on the type of test used and how it was conducted. Your lawyer can request this evidence from the prosecution or get it from police records. In some cases, they may need to file a subpoena to obtain the evidence they need.
The most common types of evidence used in a Title 17 defense include:
- Notes from the officers who processed you
- The calibration log of the specific breath test that was used on you
- Past data from the same device
- The training and credentials of the person who conducted your test
- The name and credentials of the lab that analyzed your blood or urine sample
In a blood or urine test your lawyer may also request part of the actual blood or urine sample, so that they can test it independently in a lab of their choosing. To do this, the sample will be “split”—one half stays with the state’s lab as evidence and the other half is sent to your lawyer’s lab.
Dealing with this technical evidence is why a DUI defense lawyer is so valuable. Your lawyer can handle the entire process for you—and if they are experienced with DUI cases, it will be a routine part of what they do. It could also end up winning your case for you.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 896-2724 and get your free consultation today.