Archive for May 28th, 2008

Breathalyzers: Accurate Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I’ve written repeatedly in the past about the inaccuracy and unreliability of the various breath machines used to estimate blood alcohol concentrations.  See, for example, How Breathalyzers Work (and Why They Don’t), Why Breathalyzers Don’t Measure Alcohol and Breathalyzer Inaccuracy: Testing During the Absorptive State.  

Yet, our MADD-influenced laws increasingly ignore scientific evidence and rely upon these machines to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt — assisted by more laws that now presume guilt based upon a reading over .08% from one of these machines.  See Whatever happened to the Presumption of Innocence?.  Even more laws presume that the blood-alcohol level at the time of testing was the same as when driving, say, three hours earlier.  See How to Overcome Scientific Facts: Pass a Law.   Quite literally, these devices have become judge, jury and executioner. 

However, some judges across the country are beginning to take a closer look at these machines…


Breath Test Won’t Prove Some DUIs

A Snohomish District Court judge says there are too

many questions about reliability. But the tests are

accepted at Everett Municipal Court.

Everett, WA.  May 20 – Police and prosecutors better have more than a breath test to prove someone was driving drunk when they walk into one Everett judge’s courtroom.

Snohomish County District Court Judge Tam Bui last week ruled that she will not accept breath tests measuring a person’s alcohol level because of a litany of problems with the state’s testing process.

The way the state has been conducting the tests is flawed, and until changes are made at the Washington State Patrol Toxicology Lab, the results can’t be used as evidence in her courtroom, Bui ruled…

Jurors should be allowed to hear the results of the breath tests, as well as the problems with the lab and make their own decisions about the weight to give test evidence, said Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Charlie Blackman.

“The decision essentially says that many small errors, which in our opinion have no scientific significance, result in the courts viewing the evidence not reliable enough for a jury to consider,” Blackman said. “We think that’s wrong. We think you can trust a jury to sort this out.”


Trust a jury to sort it out?  After the judge is required by law to instruct the jury that they must rebuttably presume guilt if the machine says .08% ?

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