Faulty Breathalyzers Plague Law Enforcement in Alabama, Throughout USA

Posted by Steven Eversole | Jul 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

Breath testing in Alabama DUI cases is a constant battle that attorneys and defendants fight in order to see justice done.

Birmingham DUI Attorneys have seen how breath testing has been used by prosecutors as a main component of the evidence used against defendants charged with DUI and how, unchallenged, this can become a miscarriage of justice. These tests are inherently faulty and there are examples nationwide of the devices leading to convictions for people who are innocent.

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We have all seen cases where a person steadfastly denies being guilty of the crime. The public scoffs, believing that police have arrested the right person and that there's no way the person could be innocent. But then the defense brings up evidence, or the state has a lack of evidence and the perception changes.

The above description almost perfectly fits the case of Casey Anthony, the Orlando woman accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, who was vilified in the news media only to be found not guilty at trial because the state had little concrete evidence against her. But this principle also applies to DUI cases and one of the main areas that can be attacked are breathalyzers.

Earlier this year, the news media reported about several jurisdictions that were having problems with breath testing:

Santa Clara, California: More than 858 DUI cases were reviewed by prosecutors after the state learned that the Alco-Sensor V device used by police in several California cities was giving incorrect readings because of a manufacturing defect that allowed condensation to build in the tube. It's unclear how many cases ended up being dropped, but experts believed that quite a few people who may have already pleaded guilty and served time in jail, lost jobs and paid fines and fees could have been found not guilty.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Here, more than 1,100 DUI cases were potentially tainted after police discovered in March that the machines used to calibrate breathalyzer devices weren't properly calibrated. Prosecutors said that anyone whose case included evidence from the machines would be permitted a retrial. But that may not cut it for people who already have been punished.

Montpelier, Vermont: In Vermont, a mistake in software setup on breath analysis machines along with claims of unethical lab work threaten dozens of DUI prosecutions in that state. Defense attorneys claim that a machine wasn't properly set up by Vermont State Police, allowing police to test drivers' samples without a self-check that measures the alcohol content of a control sample before it measures a suspect's breath.

These examples show that the problems exist with these devices everywhere, including in Alabama. It often takes some digging or whistleblowers to report problems, but exposing them ensures justice to those charged with a crime.

The lesson here is not to try to fight a DUI charge by yourself. Even when only a misdemeanor, it carries severe penalties that can result in a person losing their job and facing ridicule in the community. Quickly accepting a plea deal can sometimes be advantageous, but it can also be dangerous if all the evidence isn't first explored and examined.


Additional Resources:

Some DUI cases likely to be dismissed because of faulty breathalyzer, by Tracey Kaplan, San Jose Mercury News
City fails breathalyzer test in 1,100 cases, by Dana DiFilippo, Philly.com
Vermont DUI convictions in jeopardy as breath-test program faces challenges, The Associated Press

About the Author

Steven Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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