D.C. Breath-Alcohol Testers Don't Pass Test

At least 8 breath-alcohol testers flawed

By Matthew Stabley and Pat Collins
|  Saturday, Feb 27, 2010  |  Updated 9:12 AM EDT
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DC May Have Convicted Some With the Aid of Flawed Breath-Alcohol Tests

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DUI Test Flaws Already Impacting Courts?

A veteran defense attorney is calling for an independent investigation into breath alcohol testers used by D.C. police, after an internal audit revealed flaws in the machines.

DC May Have Convicted Some With the Aid of Flawed Breath-Alcohol Tests

Hundreds of people convicted of drunken driving in D.C. may be off the hook due to flawed breath-alcohol tests.
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Hundreds of people convicted of drunken driving in D.C. may be off the hook due to flawed breath-alcohol tests.

A Metropolitan Police Department audit uncovered a calibration problem with many Intoxilyzer breath-alcohol testers, News4's Pat Collins learned. At one point or another, at least eight of the department's 10 Intoxilyzers were deemed to be flawed, police said.

"There's a period of time where it looks like there was a problem in the results on the machines, so when were doing our review and we noticed that there was a problem, we immediately pulled them out of service," Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.

Police reported the discovery to the D.C. Attorney General's Office.

This means hundreds of DUI and DWI convictions dating to October 2008 could be overturned. That doesn't include those whose blood or urine was tested, as is the case in crimes like fatal crashes.

"I think that there's a reason we do audits of everything that we do, and it's good that we caught it ourselves and pulled those machines immediately, and now we have to work with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the OAG to make sure that every case that may be affected is being looked at," Lanier said.

Intoxilyzers are used by the department to determine the sobriety of people. The Intoxilyzers that police are using now are calibrated and in good working order.
 

A veteran defense attorney familiar with the D.C. court system is not surprised with the revelations.

"Last week in Superior Court, prosecutors were dropping breath results from the Intox 5000 and would not say why,"  said Stephen Mercer.

Mercer is now calling for an independent investigation into the flawed alcohol breath tests.

"Police going back and reviewing the cases with the assistance of a prosecutor is unacceptable," Mercer said. "There has to be independent oversight and outside evaluators."

Chief Lanier has given no details on exactly what went wrong with accuracy of the breath tests or how the problem was discovered.

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