Court OKs Breathalyzer Evidence
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )
Motion to suppress breathalyzer test results; Whether the officer who administered the test violated the 15-minute observation period; MI Admin. Code, R. 325.2655(1)(e); Principle that there is no bright-line rule of automatic suppression of evidence where an administrative rule has been violated; People v. Wujkowski; People v. Rexford; Principle that suppression of test results is required only when there is a deviation from the administrative rules that call into question the accuracy of the test; People v. Fosnaugh
The court held that the trial court erred by suppressing the results of defendant’s breathalyzer test. He was charged with operating while intoxicated or impaired, third offense, and operating while license suspended or revoked. Following his preliminary exam, the trial court granted his motion to suppress the breathalyzer results on the basis that the officer violated the 15-minute observation period. On appeal, the prosecution argued that no violation occurred “because during the 15-minute period, the officer had [defendant] in his peripheral vision, which is part of his ‘field of vision.’” The court noted that, according to the record, “during the 15-minute waiting period, the officer completed booking paperwork, entered information into a computer, and, at times, had his back to” defendant. The prosecution was correct “that the rule allows an officer (a class operator) to ‘complete paperwork, enter data into the breath test instrument, or conduct other reasonable tasks during the observation period provided the subject is within the operator’s field of vision.’” It declined to define “field of vision,” finding that, even if a violation occurred, the trial court erred by suppressing the results. “Here, like in Wujkowski, there is no evidence that [defendant] smoked, regurgitated, or placed anything into his mouth during the 15-minute observation period.” Further, the booking-room video showed that he “was sitting for the entirety of this period with his hands handcuffed behind his back, so he could not have put anything into his mouth.” There was also nothing in the record suggesting he “did anything to render the test results inaccurate, even in the periods in which the officer’s attention was diverted.” He did not “allege that the test results [we]re inaccurate because he did, in fact, regurgitate or put something in his mouth.” As such, “even if the officer failed to observe [defendant] during the 15-minute waiting period, the record evidence does not demonstrate that the test’s accuracy was compromised.” Thus, any violation of the rule constituted harmless error. Reversed and remanded.