What is Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) in DWI Cases?

man drinking alcohol while driving

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In Texas, a police officer must have probable cause to believe that you are impaired by alcohol or drugs to arrest you for driving while intoxicated (DWI). Probable cause can be established through sufficient evidence showing that a driver was intoxicated.

One of the ways to establish probable cause in a DWI case is to conduct field sobriety tests, including the so-called preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). If you were asked to take preliminary alcohol screening or any other field sobriety test during a traffic stop or were arrested for your refusal to take a roadside test, contact a criminal defense attorney.

A Coryell County criminal defense attorney will protect your rights and ensure that you do not lose your driving privileges as a result of your DWI arrest.

What is Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS)?

Preliminary alcohol screening, also known as PAS, refers to a roadside breath test administered by law enforcement to determine the concentration of alcohol in a driver’s system. If PAS shows that the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit, a police officer has probable cause to arrest the driver.

In Texas, a motorist is considered “intoxicated” when alcohol concentration in their blood is at or above 0.08% (Texas Criminal Code § 49.01).

How Does PAS Measure a Driver’s BAC Level?

When an individual drinks an alcoholic beverage, alcohol is absorbed into their system. The consumed alcohol is processed by the liver. On average, the liver cannot process more than one standard alcoholic beverage in 60 minutes.

If a person drinks more than one drink per hour, the unprocessed alcohol moves through their system. Some concentration of alcohol passes through the lungs. Preliminary alcohol screening is administered using a breath-testing machine that measures the concentration of alcohol in the driver’s lungs when they exhale.

Are PAS Results Accurate?

No breath test is more accurate than a chemical test, including a blood test. Since preliminary alcohol screening is done using handheld devices and is often administered by officers who do not have the necessary experience using such machines, the results of PAS may be inaccurate.

When PAS is administered improperly, you can challenge the results of the test to avoid a conviction for DWI in Texas. It is also important to understand that PAS test machines do not measure an exact BAC level in a driver’s body. They only show an estimated concentration of alcohol in the driver’s system.

While law enforcement may use PAS results to argue that they had probable cause to arrest you for DWI, you need to speak with an experienced DWI defense attorney to contest the accuracy of the test and prove that you should not have been arrested in the first place.

Can You Refuse Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS)?

As with any other field sobriety test, drivers are not legally required to take preliminary alcohol screening if they do not want to. However, a police officer may make it seem that you do not have a choice when asking you to go through PAS.

You have a right to refuse preliminary alcohol screening or any other field sobriety test during a traffic stop. If you do not want to be subject to PAS, politely tell the officer that you refuse to take the test.

While you will not face any penalties for your refusal to take PAS, refusing to take the test may lead to your arrest if the officer can use other evidence during a traffic stop to establish probable cause.

The Pros and Cons of Refusing a Field Sobriety Test

Many Texans do not realize that they have a right to refuse a field sobriety test such as preliminary alcohol screening. While you can refuse a roadside sobriety test, refusal may not be the best strategy in all DWI cases.

If you know for a fact that you did not consume alcohol or take any drugs or prescription medication that could impair your driving abilities, taking a field sobriety test could stop the officer from arresting you for DWI.

However, if you are not 100% confident that you will pass a field sobriety test, it may be a better option to refuse the roadside test. Consider these two major pros and cons of refusing a field sobriety test:

  • Pro: If you refuse a field sobriety test, law enforcement may not have sufficient evidence to prove that your blood alcohol concentration exceeded the legal limit.

  • Con: If you refuse PAS or any other roadside sobriety test, you are likely to get arrested on suspicion of DWI.

It is advisable to consult with your attorney to determine whether or not you should refuse a field sobriety test. If you have already been arrested after a traffic stop, contact an attorney to avoid a DWI conviction.

Are Preliminary Alcohol Screenings Covered by Texas’s Implied Consent Law?

Texas Transportation Code § 724.011 (the so-called implied consent law) provides that any individual arrested on suspicion of DWI has automatically given their consent to go through a chemical test to determine their BAC level.

Preliminary alcohol screenings and other field sobriety tests are not covered by the state’s implied consent law. It means that you are legally required to be subject to a chemical test following your DWI arrest, even if you have taken preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) before your arrest.

A refusal to take a chemical test after your arrest can result in criminal and administrative penalties, including the suspension of your driver’s license for a minimum of 180 days.

What to Do if Took Preliminary Alcohol Screening?

If you agreed to take a preliminary alcohol screening or any other field sobriety test that showed that your BAC is over the legal limit, do not worry. You may still have a chance to avoid a DWI conviction. Your attorney can help you reduce or avoid criminal penalties by building a solid defense strategy.

Consult with a criminal defense attorney to discover your legal options if you were arrested on suspicion of DWI in Texas. Schedule a free case evaluation with your criminal lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard by calling (254) 220-4225.


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