Friday, June 11, 2010

Nearly 400 drivers victimized by faulty breath test machines in D.C.

According to Washington, D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, improperly calibrated breath test machines have thrown into question nearly 400 convictions in DWI cases. It seems that the machines were so poorly calibrated that they would overstate the estimated alcohol concentration by 20%. Somehow the officer in charge of maintaining the machines set the baseline alcohol concentrations incorrectly.

Now comes the parade of writs, dismissals and expunctions - but there is nothing that can be done to compensate the victims of the breath testers for the hell they went through as a result of the faulty machines.

These machines are every bit as fallible as any other mechanical device -- the result of a breath test is not the legal equivalent of Moses coming down from the mountain hold the Ten Commandments. The people operating these machines don't know how they work. Hell, they don't even know if the machines working properly. The breath test operator is nothing more than a glorified monkey who turns the machine on, types in some information and tells a driver to blow.


Thomas Hobbes said...

Are you equally bothered by SCRAM, which doesn't allow for confirmation testing and generally doesn't raise a flag until well after the opportunity to challenge the "evidence" is lost?

Paul B. Kennedy said...

I am very troubled by the reliance of the courts on SCRAM and ignition interlock devices.

The ignition interlock device is "calibrated" once a month and cannot distinguish between the alcohol found in a beer and the alcohol found in mouthwash.

Neither device has undergone rigorous scientific testing to determine their accuracy.

Having said that, I once had a client who opted for the SCRAM device instead of being held without a bond.