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Faulty breathalyzers bring DUI cases into question

As discussed in a previous post, faulty breathalyzer devices have led to hundreds of DUI cases to come under scrutiny. Several devices that had been used in traffic stops and DUI arrests since January have been shown to give erratic blood-alcohol readings. Prosecutors will now review almost 300 DUI cases, according to the Los Angeles Times.

All drunk-driving cases involving the faulty breathalyzers are now suspended pending review. In 157 of these cases, people already pleaded no contest or pleaded guilty. People may have also paid fines or had their driver's licenses suspended or spent time in jail due to the faulty machines. The machines are the hand-held Alco-Sensor V. The machines were made by Intoximeters Inc., based out of St. Louis.

While this particular rash of faulty breathalyzers occurred in California, this kind of thing can happen anywhere, including Georgia. As noted in a previous post, the constant effort to improve breathalyzer technology -- to make them faster, cheaper, smaller or to just keep making and selling them -- can introduce errors to the devices. These particular devices have an error present in the mouthpiece that leads to inaccurate readings.

Many of the cases will likely be dismissed, especially if the breathalyzer test was the primary evidence in the case. In some cases, other tests were also conducted to determine the blood-alcohol concentration and level of intoxication. Some defense attorneys interviewed in the LA Times piece felt that the prosecutors were down-playing how many machines were defective or how systematic the errors were.

Source:

Faulty breathalyzers spur review of hundreds of DUI cases (Los Angeles Times)