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).