DUI Mailbag: What Does Invalid Sample and Invalid Test Mean?

Every Friday we will take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about Pennsylvania DUI so that we can clear up any misconceptions and provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information.  Today:

I was recently arrested for a DUI and taken to the station for testing.  The machine was an Intoxilyzer 5000. I was told to blow into the machine and I did.  The machine printed “Invalid Sample” and on the second go around it read “Invalid Test” on the tickets.  The cops then said I refused the test and charged me with a refusal.  What does this all mean?

The machine you are referring is the Intoxilyzer 5000.  As a certified technician and owner of this machine, I know this machine inside and out.  Here is some information to clear up your confusion:

Invalid Sample

IIntoxilyzer DUI Breath Test Machinenvalid sample means residual mouth alcohol detector went off.  This means that the machine thinks that you still have alcohol in your mouth perhaps because you burped or you have GERD or a full 20 minute deprivation period hasn’t been achieved.  The police should know that this is not a refusal.  Instead, what they should do is wait 20 minutes and try again.  This is NOT a refusal. Sometimes the machine will display “Invalid Sample” or “xxx” on the display unit, and an officer will say that it is a refusal in total contravention to the design of the machine and claim that the person was sucking or huffing or twirling the mouthpiece with his/her tongue.  However, sucking or huffing would cause the steady tone that goes off when the machine is being used to stop emitting no sound and it would have read “Please blow” on the screen not “invalid sample”.

Invalid Test

There are three ways that gets printed on a card:  (1) the start button is hit by the operator during the test causing an abort (2) the test card is removed from the printer (which wouldn’t be printed on the card because it has been removed) and (3) the purge pump is unable to purge the chamber-ambient or the chamber is flooded.  This is NEVER EVER a refusal.

Unfortunately, often the police officers conducting these tests have not gone through enough training and make erroneous assumptions as in this case.

If you would like to ask a question, please submit it via the contact us link.


-Justin J. McShane, Esquire, Pennsylvania DUI Attorney

I am the highest rated DUI Attorney in PA as Rated by Avvo.com

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Harrisburg DUI Lawyer Justin J McShane NBTA certification

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PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Avvo.com. Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

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2 responses to “DUI Mailbag: What Does Invalid Sample and Invalid Test Mean?”

  1. michele says:

    April 2013 – In the current proposal pending at Pennsylvania state court, is it possible 5000EN BAC levels between .05 – .15 will be effected? Or are attorneys only challenging cases outside of this BAC level to the state? Thank you.

    • Yes, we here at The McShane Firm (www.TheMcShaneFirm.com) are currently litigating what is known as the Initial Calibration Challenge (Commonwealth v. Rosario et al) which seeks to challenge the validity of all BrAC measurements.

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