PAS Test vs. Implied Consent Test

Many people wonder what is the difference between the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test and the implied consent test as it relates to DUI?

PAS Test

The PAS is used by California police (and elsewhere) to measure blood alcohol levels using a hand-held breath-testing unit that instantly and accurately measures a person’s blood-alcohol content during the investigative process. The implied consent test is custodial, and administered after the arrest is complete.

PAS tests are typically conducted after a person has failed a series of field sobriety tests, yet before the arrest is actually made.

Applying PAS With Implied Consent

The California Vehicle Code requires the investigating officer to inform the driver that performing such test does not satisfy their obligations under California’s implied consent law (compulsory testing once the arrest has been made—refusal constitutes an automatic suspension of their driving privilege), and that they are not required by law to perform the PAS. In other words, a driver can decline the PAS without penalty, but not the blood or breath test post-arrest per the implied consent law.

Presumed Impairment

However, if the person is boarder-line-DUI, it can be in their best interest to submit to a PAS test. If a motorist possesses a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 in California, their impairment is presumed. Therefore, if a driver performs poorly during the field sobriety tests, yet firmly believes they are not impaired, submitting to the PAS might prevent the arrest if they blow .07 or lower. Unless the investigating officer believes drugs are combined with alcohol, and the PAS results do not meet the presumptive level for impairment, the driver could wind up in a cab versus the back seat of a patrol unit.

PAS Contributes to Probable Cause

In short, PAS testing is used by police to help them establish probable cause, but the motorist is not compelled by law to cooperate. Moreover, PAS breath tests are admissible as evidence in court.

Implied Consent Equals Compulsory Testing

If a person is lawfully arrested in California, they are compelled to submit to chemical test of blood or breath for determining BAC as previously mentioned. If the presence of drugs are suspected, the blood test will be administered. The penalties for refusing to take the test are a one-year driver’s license suspension for a first refusal, two years for a second and three years for a third. These penalties are in addition to the exposure faced in criminal court based upon the arrest for DUI.