Every day people are arrested for driving under the influence. While police officers have clues and circumstantial evidence that people are intoxicated such as slurred speech, driving erratically, or bloodshot eyes, direct evidence is often provided by blood alcohol tests. These tests, which measure an individual's blood alcohol content, can involve taking samples of breath, blood, or urine.
Breath tests devices, also commonly known as breathalyzers, are one of the most popular methods to determine if a driver is too tipsy to be behind the wheel. However, these devices can create problems if they are not working properly. A breath test that does not produce an accurate measurement of a suspect's blood alcohol level can lead to a false positive reading and an unjust criminal conviction for the suspect. In fact, when a breath test device is found to be improperly calibrated, it can affect the validity of the convictions of a great number of individuals, depending on how quickly the error is found.
A number of states across the country have dealt with faulty breath test devices in the past year including:
- New Jersey: In November 2016 NJTV News reported that "[a] federal class action suit is seeking to throw out the DUI convictions of more than 20,000 New Jersey drivers who may have been wrongly prosecuted because of botched calibrations on breathalyzer tests." The breath test devices were not properly calibrated because a State Police Sergeant allegedly "skipped a step when completing the biannual re-calibrations on the Alcotest devices used on drivers." The sergeant has been charged with records tampering but he has denied the charges.
- In October of 2015 in Nebraska, a faulty breathalyzer may have jeopardized the results in more than 180 cases after the devices weren't "calibrated to state standards for nearly three years." According to Oliver Glass, the county attorney, "the device ha[d] been printing out the wrong numbers." The employee in charge of maintaining the device stepped down after the device was revealed to be faulty. It is unclear if he ended up facing any criminal charges.
- In July 2016, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that "[h]undreds of DUI cases from the first half of 2016 may be adversely affected because Breathalyzer machines used by Philadelphia police were improperly calibrated." The calibration that the police had been using had "legally expired." All the breath test devices were re-calibrated to the proper settings before being put back in use. The improper calibrations could affect up to 1,000 cases, according to the attorney who notified the Philadelphia police of the error.
Breath tests are not the only blood alcohol test that can be subject to error. In August of 2016, it was reported that "four thousand blood alcohol samples were tested using a wrong calibration model" between December 2015 and April 2016 in Michigan. The Michigan State Policed stated that "more than 2,000 of its blood alcohol test results were wrong and had to be corrected because of a calibration error." The police reported that the "results were off by a hair and there were no borderline samples with corrected results that pushed them over or below the legal blood alcohol limit of .08." The police stated that "of the 2,000 results that had to be corrected, only 66 were lowered and only 18 worked out in favor of defendants."
If you or someone you know is facing charges of driving under the influence in Georgia, please do not hesitate to contact Gwinnett County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today.