Report: Breath Tests in DUI Cases often Unreliable

From Port Orchard to Pensacola and from Phoenix to Peoria – and everywhere in between – more than a million people in the U.S. are arrested for drunk driving each year. Most of those drivers are asked to blow into a device that tests their breath to determine their level of impairment.

If you blow into the machine, it is likely to generate a reading that effectively guarantees a DUI arrest and conviction. If you don’t blow into it, the state of Washington can suspend your driver’s license for up to two years. Unfortunately, breath-test machines are unreliable – a conclusion reinforced by a recent investigation of the technology by the New York Times.

Times’ reporters found “tens of thousands” of tests taken with Breathalyzers and other testing machines were thrown out of court because the results could not be trusted by judges.

The Times states that judges across the nation “have tossed out more than 50,000 tests in recent years because of problems with specific machines, errors made by police officers and mistakes by labs that set up and maintain the devices.”

Also problematic: breath-test machine makers consider their tech proprietary trade secrets, so they battle to maintain secrecy and deny criminal defense attorneys the opportunity to examine the technology.

The Times says “even systemic problems rarely come to light” because of the secrecy and the lack of oversight of state labs and police departments.

The price of the secrecy and unreliability can be steep, as evidenced in Massachusetts, where the state tossed out eight years of flawed breath tests.

In New Jersey, 13,000 drivers who were convicted of DUI with flawed breath tests can have their cases retried.

The first step in fighting a drunk driving arrest is to speak with a lawyer who knows Washington State law and the courts and how to protect your rights, freedom and driving privileges.

Jeniece LaCross, Attorney At Law

Jeniece LaCross, Attorney At Law