400 Wrongly Convicted in Washington: Faulty Breathalyzers

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on June 10th, 2010

I’ve posted well over 100 times during the past six years on this blog about the multitude of reasons why breath alcohol machines are both inaccurate and unreliable.  See, for example, How Breathalyzers Work (and Why They Don’t), Breath Alcohol Testing: "State of the Art"?, Breathalyzer Inaccuracy: Testing During the Absorptive Stage, "Close Enough for Government Work" and Why Breathalyzers Don’t Measure Alcohol.

In today’s news, just another example of the tens of thousands of American citizens who face "trial by machine"…and are wrongly convicted: 

Wash., DC.  June 10 – Nearly 400 people in Washington, D.C., have been convicted of driving while intoxicated based on faulty breath tests that calculated blood alcohol levels about 20 percent higher than the reality.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the problem was caused when a police officer set improper baseline levels on the machines, the Washington Post reports. Nickles’ office is contacting the convicted drivers and their lawyers.

About 200 of those convicted spent some time in jail, the story says. At least one lawsuit has already been filed based on the revelation.

Nickles’ office launched an investigation after an outside consultant indicated a possible inaccuracy.

(Thanks to Steve Oberman, Nashville, TN, co-author of my book Drunk Driving Defense and Dean of the National College for DUI Defense.)

  • standup

    And MADD says…

    (The sound of tumbleweeds rolling by)

  • David W

    Just another “MADD” minor inconvenience no doubt. In their world, this is acceptable.

  • standup

    And the cherry on the Sundae?
    MADD thinks that these people should be “thrilled” for the opportunity to go to court and prove their innocence. Right Don?

  • RichardAlan

    When I was stopped in 2007 for simply driving down an American highway minding my own business traveling 46 in a 45 mph zone, and based on the knowledge and wisdom of the above story I too refused to blow into this magical contraption.

    I was then kidnapped and detained by a man wearing a costume with a side arm, then my property was stolen by a bunch of other men wearing costumes, then I was put in a cage for 12 hours … simply for driving down the highway at night time and then stopped for no reason other than being behind the wheel of a car at night on a US highway traveling from point A to point B,

    Then the magical land of the DMV makes arbitrary decisions based on make believe cookie cutter templates by the men wearing costumes–more services and products being offered at the barrel of a gun