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15 Minute Michigan OWI Observation Period

Question: What is the 15-minute observation period in a Michigan OWI case?

Answer: Well, the reason they call it a 15-minute observation period is, whenever you're doing breath testing, the mouth can have contaminants in there which can throw off any kind of breath testing. So it can be other parts of the esophagus, potentially I guess you could have it in the lungs, or in the bronchioles, there could be some kind of contamination there as well, but most often it's something that's in the mouth. So if an officer inspects the mouth of the person he wants to test, makes sure there's nothing in there right then, and observes them for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, somewhere in that range, they can be somewhat assured that there won't be contamination of the breath sample and they should be reasonably sure that the test is at least somewhat accurate.

If there's any kind of regurgitation, burping, anything that's foreign in the mouth, like chewing tobacco is a common one I've seen, if there's anything like that, then they need to remove whatever's in there, make sure the mouth is clean, and then wait another 15 minutes from that point in time. This is where we see a lot of problems in a lot of tests. And this 15-minute observation period is both for the preliminary breath test done at the side of the road as well as the DataMaster test that's done back at the police station. It's supposed to be done in both instances. But we see a lot of times where it's not actually followed, or the officer is not actually observing anything and we watch the video and the client is touching the mouth, and who knows what's on the client's hands, and things like that.

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