After a driver is arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, a lot of what happens next depends on the results of a breath test to determine the driver's blood alcohol level. These tests provide the legal basis for bringing an official DWI charge. Unfortunately, they are not always as accurate as they should be.
Drunk driving defense attorneys have long challenged the validity of breath-testing devices in an effort to ensure that defendants are treated fairly and afforded their constitutional right to challenge the evidence against them. Many readers may recall the legal battles over the Intoxilyzer 5000, which erupted when the manufacturer refused to share its source code with defense attorneys.
Now, a new fight is brewing over a device called the DataMaster DMT-G.
Breath Tests Results May Not Be Reliable
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension purchased 280 DataMaster devices in an attempt to get around the reliability issues posed by the Intoxilyzer. However, while the DataMaster does come with source code access, it may have other problems of its own.
The DataMaster uses "dual testing" technology, essentially providing two readings with each administration. This type of device, which combines infrared and fuel-cell technologies, is rare in the United States, but state law enforcement officials thought it would provide more accurate breath test readings.
Unfortunately for the BCA - and for drunk driving suspects - the opposite was true. The fuel cell tests turned out to be inconsistent and difficult for officers to use correctly. As a result, hundreds of individuals may have been convicted on less-than-reliable evidence.
Defense attorneys are beginning to challenge the tests in court, hoping to shed light on reliability problems and ensure fairer treatment for DWI suspects. Poor blood alcohol testing can form the grounds to have a conviction thrown out on appeal.
Although this litigation is happening in Minnesota, the same principles hold true in DWI cases in New York and throughout the United States. DWI convictions have the potential to bring severe consequences, so it is extremely important that the evidence on which they are based is fair and accurate.
Source: Star Tribune, "New DWI Tester Is Called Flawed," David Chanen, June 9, 2012.