Monthly Archives: October 2010
I have written ad nauseum about the inaccuracy and unreliability of breathalyzers. See, for example, How Breathalyzers Work (And Why They Don’t).
Sources of inaccuracy occur, among other reasons, because of inherent design defects, defective and inaccurate software, physiological variability of subjects tested, improper administration by police, and unreliable maintenance and calibration.
The latter is a continuing problem in police agencies across the country — including the tendency to falsify maintenance and calibration records. This is done to validate questionable test results — to permit admissibility as evidence in court and to support public and judicial confidence in the machines. These behind-the-scenes procedures are, of course, difficult to detect.
One of my readers, Stephen F. Daniels of Treasure Island, Florida, has recently contacted me with fascinating videotape of what appears to be one of those procedures.
Mr. Daniels holds a certificate from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as a "Breath Test Operator and Agency Inspector". He informs me that the videotape — which he has posted on YouTube — shows a police agency inspector of the Hillsborough County Sheriff Office in Tampa "intentional falsifying the failing monthly inspection reports and making up false excuses which allowed her to retest and keep the failing Intoxilyzer on-line".
The full 14-minute videotape can be viewed at: Fake O-Ring Excuse by Hillsborough County Sheriff Office Alcohol Inspector.
For those who may question this, consider the following Tampa TV news report:
Misuse of DUI Machines at Hillsborough Jail?
When a law enforcement officer arrests someone for DUI and takes that person to the Hillsborough Orient Road Jail, we have seen there can be problems.
Wanda Sullivan, who was arrested for DUI, found that out when she was pulled from a chair and dragged across the floor. However, our 3-month investigation also shows there are problems with the way law enforcement authorities have used the breath testing machine, the Intoxilyzer 8000.
We ran a control test with DUI consultant Stephen Daniels, using the Intoxilyzer 8000. The result of the test had his blood alcohol at .000.
Then we had Daniels eat some Wonder Bread, and he blew a .033. Although still under the legal limit, Daniels was registering alcohol after only eating bread…
This isn’t the first time the accuracy of the breath testing machines and the way the Florida Department of Law Enforcement monitors them has been called in to question. Within the past year, an inspector had to be dismissed after she was caught telling other police agencies how to get around the guidelines if the machine failed the state-mandated test.
"We found that they actually fudge on the machines," says defense attorney Richard Hersch.
We showed Hersch an inspection test from Hillsborough County on July 19 2007. The inspector logs in at 8:58 and then conducts that test a 9:06. The inspector then says the inspection was not completed, because of a power failure.
So the inspector performs another test at 9:41, and then logs back in at 9:43. The FDLE says doing that is impossible; you can’t inspect a machine after a power failure without re-logging in first.
"By turning it off, all of the failed inspection data didn’t get written to the memory. It disappeared," Hersch explains.
That means a machine that could be out of tolerance could be used as evidence to convict you of a DUI, if you are pulled over and possibly under the legal limit.
For a YouTube videotape showing Mr. Daniels taking another breath test after eating a slice of bread, see Wonder Bread Blow With a 0.405% BrAC (over half of the legal limit).
I posted a few days ago about yet another example of MADD’s influence in pressuring legislators to pass ever-more Draconian laws: proposed DUI laws in Manitoba giving police unlimited power to pull over any driver they wish and administer field sobriety tests – regardless of whether there are any indications of drunk driving. The following is a newspaper staff editorial standing up to similar pressures from MADD in another province, British Columbia:
Vancouver, BC. Oct. 25 –Drunk driving is a scourge on society. It kills innocent people and maims others. But the B.C. government has taken stern measures to combat it, including the imposition of some of the toughest penalties in Canada.
What’s wrong with this picture…besides the macho "top gun" stuff?
Local Officers Honored as "Top Guns" for DUI Arrests
York, PA. Oct. 20 – Local law enforcement officers will be honored for taking more than 380 impaired drivers off York roads last year.
The Pennsylvania Driving Under the Influence Association will honor 48 officers statewide with 2010 DUI Top Gun Awards…
"We are taking this opportunity to honor those officers in Pennsylvania who were leaders during 2009 in either making DUI arrests or conducting drug influence evaluations on impaired drivers," C. Stephen Erni, executive director of the Pennsylvania DUI Association, said…
So….why are cops being given awards for making arrests — rather than for arrests resulting in convictions? (For a discussion of the problem, see my earlier post Officers Rewarded for Arrests – Not Convictions.)
Two stories in today’s newspapers say a lot about where the focus is for saving lives on the highways:
Random Tests Go Too Far
Winnipeg, Canada. Oct. 18 — Police powers to check for impaired driving have encroached relentlessly upon civil liberties, such that innocent motorists are randomly, routinely pulled over and questioned, absent of cause. If an officer suspects any drinking has occurred, drivers must take a test. The penalties for refusing are equal to failing the test...
Now the Harper government wants to eliminate the need for any suspicion of drinking, allowing police to randomly demand a roadside test.
Texting and Driving a Costly Business Risk
Miami, FL. Oct 18 — Cellphones and driving don’t mix.
According to the National Safety Council, an estimated 200,000 crashes a year are caused by drivers who are texting. And that doesn’t include the near-misses. Added to that, a recent Car & Driver Magazine study found that texting and driving was more hazardous than drinking and driving, with texting drivers three to four times slower in their response rates than drunk drivers...
Perhaps Candy Lightner, the founder and first president of MADD, was right when she quit the organization, claiming that it its focus had shifted from saving lives to prohibition.
As I have said in earlier posts, law enforcement investigation techniques depend largely upon the fictitious premise that all humans are physiologically identical (see “Convicting the Average DUI Suspect”). Without that presumption, field sobriety and breath alcohol tests would not be possible. I have previously discussed many examples of physiological differences — from person to person and within one person from moment to moment — which will directly alter breath or blood alcohol testing (see, for example, “Diabetes and the Counterfeit DUI”, “GERD, Acid Reflux and False Breathalyzer Results” and “The Effect of Anemia on Breath Tests”).
Yet another example of variability is body temperature. Put simply, an individual’s body temperature will have a direct effect on the results of a breath test. The effects of changes in body temeprature from the norm of 98.6 degrees on breath testing has been discussed in an article entitled “Body Temperature and the Breathalyzer Boobytrap”, 721 Michigan Bar Journal (September 1982). If because of illness, for example, the body temperature is elevated by only 1 degree Centrigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), the 1:2100 breath-to-blood partition ratio will be affected so as to produce a 7 percent higher test result. Higher body temperatures will, of course, result in greater errors.
You don’t have to be sick to have a higher body temperature. Dr. Michael Hlastala, Professor of Physiology, Biophysics and Medicine at the University of Washington, confirms this — and the effects on breath test results. In an article entitled “Physiological Errors Associated with Alcohol Breath Testing”, 9(6) The Champion 18 (1985), he comments that even the average body temperature of a normal, healthy person “may vary by as much as 1 degree Centigrade above or below the normal mean value of 37 degrees Centigrade — or 1.8 degrees from the mean value of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit”.
Not only can the normal mean body temperature of an individual vary from that of other persons, but the “temperature of any individual may vary from time to time during the day by as much as 1 degree Centigrade”. Result? The partition ratio for alcohol in blood is altered — meaning, according to Professor Hlastala, a 6.3 percent error for every 1 degree Centigrade increase or decrease from the presumed normal body temperature.
Yet another example of how breathalyzers are not actually testing you, but rather an “average” person who does not exist.