Friday, August 31, 2012

Inaccurate breath analysis machines overstated DUI test results

On behalf of The Law Offices of Daniel J Miller posted in Drunk Driving on Tuesday, May 8, 2012

There are a number of pieces of evidence that the state can use when prosecuting alleged drunk driving offenses. Besides a police officer's recorded observations from the road and samples of a suspect's blood or urine, there is the familiar breath test. Virginia delegates the tasks of maintaining, examining and calibrating breath test equipment to a forensic laboratory. One city just north of Virginia does not yet do so, however, and it has come under scrutiny for inaccurate breath test results.

In an update to a prior blog post, a number of people have filed challenges to their DUI convictions that may have been based on false breath tests results. An examination of the city's breath testing machines revealed that none was accurate and that the equipment registered a person's blood alcohol content as 20 percent greater than the true amount. The accuracy of breath tests is of paramount importance in the city because the law there allows a court to find a driver guilty of DUI on the test results alone.

During the period from 2008 to 2010, the city said that as many as 400 drunk driving cases had involved results from the malfunctioning machines. Recently, the city reached an agreement with four people affected by the inaccurate equipment and will pay them approximately $20,000. Payment amounts varied among the four. The city has extended similar offers to six other defendants in DUI cases.

The payment does not signify that the four defendants were absolved of guilt, however. Prosecutors used additional evidence to obtain three DUI convictions. Yet their cases, and those of similar alleged drunk drivers, illustrate that evidence, including scientific evidence, brought against a defendant can be false. Defendants have a right to challenge the evidence against them to prove its veracity.

Source: The Washington Post, "D.C. to pay 4 drivers $20,000 in challenged drunken driving convictions," Mary Pat Flaherty, May 7, 2012.

Tags: DUI, breathalyzer, field sobriety test

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