Faulty Breathalyzer Tests Lead to False DUI Convictions

DUI, breathalyzer tests, Chicago criminal defense attorney, driving under the influence, false conviction, All Illinois residents appreciate the dangers of drunk driving. But it is important that efforts to improve traffic safety prevent DUI-related accidents do not lead to the trampling of rights for those suspected of DUI.

In 2012, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-related crashes in the United States, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.  By NHTSA’s own estimate, that works out to one death every 51 minutes because of an alcohol-impaired driver. Given such statistics, police and prosecutors take the enforcement of drunk driving laws seriously.  Yet, this also leads to an overreach, and prosecutors may be winning DUI convictions based on faulty evidence.

The problem: malfunctioning breath test machines.

A Nationwide Issue

Questions about the accuracy of breathalyzer machines have been prevalent for years, and the problem is far from solved. The same types of machines are used by police departments across the country, leading to questions about accuracy being raised nationwide.

For example, The Washington Post once reported that some 400 people in the nation’s capital had been convicted of driving while intoxicated based on inaccurate readings from breathalyzer devices. Roughly half of those defendants spent some time in jail as a result.

An investigation found that all ten of the machines used by that department had been improperly calibrated, resulting in blood alcohol readings that were 20 percent higher than the driver’s actual blood alcohol content. The problem dated back to 2008. Prosecutors used results from the faulty breathalyzers as their primary evidence to convict motorists who had been pulled over in traffic stops. In some cases, drivers agreed to plead guilty based on inaccurate readings that placed them over the legal blood alcohol limit of .08 percent. The attorney general’s office subsequently notified the defendants and sent letters to the public defender’s office and local trial lawyers association about the mistakes.

Unfortunately, Washington, D.C. is not the only jurisdiction that ended up relying on faulty readings.

The San Francisco Police Department faced similar embarrassment two years ago.  It turned out that officers in charge of calibrating the department’s 20 breathalyzers had not conducted any tests on the machines in six years. As a report on the situation noted, the officers filled out paperwork indicating the devices had been checked when in fact they had performed no such tests. The department required the machines to be tested every 10 days. The discovery put the fate of hundreds of DUI cases in doubt.

Protect Your Criminal Rights

While drunk driving remains a serious national problem, law enforcement efforts to crack down on violators should not depend on unreliable breathalyzer tests to obtain convictions. If you are charged with DUI, it’s important to safeguard your rights by consulting with an experienced Chicago defense attorney. Please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today.

This entry was posted in Chicago criminal defense lawyer, Chicago DUI lawyer, Cook County Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Driving Privileges, Drunk Driving Arrest, DUI, Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

225 WEST WASHINGTON STREET, SUITE 2200A, CHICAGO, IL 60606

PHONE: 312-270-0999

FAX: 312-924-0201