We’ve been looking, in our last couple posts, at the importance of accurate blood alcohol testing in drunk-driving cases, and specifically about the importance of police routinely testing breath-testing devices for accuracy. The importance of this issue can be highlighted by an ongoing situation in our national capital.
As of two or three weeks ago, police in Washington D.C. were only able to use one of the eight Intoximeter breath-testing machines used to measure blood alcohol content because the other devices were not being routinely tested for accuracy. The reason is apparently that the one city employee trained to test the accuracy of the devices resigned earlier this year. The situation, by now, is likely better, since a new supervisor has been hired and additional personnel have been trained in on calibrating the machines.
Prosecutors out in D.C. have said that they have relied more on blood and urine testing in the absence of the Intoxometers, as well as witness testimony, in their prosecution of DUI cases, and that there has been little impact on the drunk-driving cases they are pursuing. Police have said, though, that the lack of breathalyzer machines over the summer has made it more difficult to arrest suspected drunk-drivers and that police have been issuing more charges for driving while impaired, which involves more evidence from observation rather than alcohol testing.
Breath testing, for better or worse, is an important tool in drunk-driving investigation and prosecution. Fortunately, police did the right thing in this case and stopped using devices that weren’t being regularly tested. That doesn’t always happen. Those facing criminal charges based on breath testing should always work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that any accuracy issues with breath testing are thoroughly scrutinized and worked into their case.