State v. Poitras

State v. Poitras, 2015 MT 287 (Oct. 6, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion by concluding sufficient foundation existed to admit the result of Poitras’s breath test.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Casey Poitras was arrested for DUI in May 2012, and submitted to a breath test on an Intoxilyzer 8000, which registered a BAC of .149%. Poitras moved to exclude the results, arguing the county’s two senior operators of the Intoxilyzer were not properly recertified. The state put in evidence that both operators had successfully competed their recertification exams in January 2012 and were issued new permits, but did not provide evidence of prior examinations. Poitras argued this evidence was necessary to show they were properly recertified in accordance with the rules.

Procedural Posture & Holding: The justice court granted Poitras’s motion to suppress, and the state appealed to the district court, which reversed. Poitras pled guilty to DUI, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. He appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms. 

Reasoning: The administrative rules governing breath test analysis instruments certify “operators,” who may administer breath tests, and “senior operators,” who can recertify the breath-test instruments, teach courses, and issue recertification permits to operators. Senior operators must pass recertification exams every 365 days, but are given a 90-day grace period to renew after his or her permit expires. Poitras argues that the operators’ recertification permits may have expired more than 90 days before they took the exams, which would have required additional training or an exemption. But Poitras did not provide any evidence casting doubt on the senior operators’ credentials; he merely raised questions about the possibility that they had not been properly certified. The state’s uncontradicted evidence of the operators’ certification provided adequate foundation for the breath test results.