Hundreds of DUI Convictions in Doubt: Inaccurate Breathalyzers

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on March 6th, 2012

In most drunk driving cases, by far the most important evidence comes from a breath test.  Our DUI laws even provide that they are sufficient by themselves to warrant a conviction.  The accuracy of these devices is, therefore, critical.  And I’ve posted dozens of time on the inaccuracy and unreliability of breathalyzers.  See, for example, How Breathalyzers Work — and Why They Don’t, Attorney General Finds Widespread Breathalyzer Inaccuracies: Police Shut Down All Machines and More Massive Breathalyzer Failures.

Besides the inherent inaccuracies of breath-testing devices, they are also entirely dependent upon proper maintenance and calibration by the police making the arrest. Failure to properly calibrate one of these devices on a regular basis is going to result in false readings — and wrongful convictions.

Unfortunately, cops and police agencies are notoriously lazy or incompetent when it comes to these irritating "technical" tasks….

SFPD Breathalyzer Error Puts Hundreds of DUI Convictions in Doubt

San Francisco, CA.  March 5 – Hundreds, or even thousands, of drunk driving convictions could be overturned because the San Francisco Police Department has not tested its breathalyzers, officials said Monday.

For at least six years, the police officers in charge of testing the 20 breathalyzers used by the Police Department did not carry out any tests on the equipment.

Officers instead filled the test forms with numbers that matched the control sample, said Public Defender Jeff Adachi, throwing countless DUI convictions into doubt.

“We do expect that the cases will be in the hundreds. It’s possible that it could go into the thousands. The District Attorney’s Office is still investigating the scope of this,” Adachi said during a joint news conference with District Attorney George Gascon…

Amazing….no calibration tests in six years!  The cops just made up numbers to make the machines look accurate.

Even more amazing that a reading from one of these machines is legally considered proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a DUI case — and even triggers a legal presumption of guilt, forcing an accused citizen to prove his innocence.  See Whatever Happened to the Presumption of Innocence? and How to Overcome Scientific Facts: Pass a Law

(Thanks to Andre Campos and Murphy Mack.)

  • Abused

    I believe that I passed the field sobriety test. The officer quickly showed me the breath test reading, which looked to be .10, which surprised me. Then when we arrived at the jail, I elected to take a blood test, since they broke my trunk light looking for drugs that I didn't have, and never put into my body. The blood test indicated a .04% BAC. I had my purse dumped out on the hood of the police car, my keys removed from the chain and dropped between the windshield and hood. My property bag had a hole the size of a baseball, while I watched my personal items and wallet content drop out in the parking lot. While I was detained, my debit card was used at the car wash 20 feet away. While in jail for 11 long, cold hours, I was not provided any food and was threatened and yelled at on numerous occasions for asking a question such as the time. I was groped in my private areas while the female officer laughed and called over a male officer after I asked for the search to be done away from the male officers. Her response was "tough, these are my partners." This was the 4th worst day of my life after the death of my daughter, father and divorce after 26 years of marriage. I will never put another drop of alcohol in my body, as I will never allow evil people that enjoy abusive humiliation and dignity stripping to ever touch me again. I will also never consider the sheriff department to employ mostly "good guys" again. I'm disgusted and appalled by the way I was treated by 90% of the officers I had contact with that awful day.  I have had two traffic tickets in the last 25 years and have never been arrested before.

  • NTN bearings

    Bearings are often specified to provide an “L10″
    existence. Some hotel brands as Hampton Inn and Comfort Inn & Suites offer
    free continental breakfast complete with coffee.
    To this end, the temperature must be continuously recorded.
    For case, it owns the sophisticated sealing technology and sophisticated lubricant technology.