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Health & Fit Breathalyzer Tests Might Send Thousands of Not-Drunk Drivers to Jail Every Year

01:55  05 november  2019
01:55  05 november  2019 Source:

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The breathalyzer , a standard police tool for testing for drunk drivers , can be wildly inaccurate with The breathalyzer has long been a standard issue tool in the police arsenal against drunk driving . That discovery, in 2010, most likely meant that years of faulty tests had convicted innocent drivers .

A million Americans a year are arrested for drunken driving , and most stops begin the same way: flashing Across the country, thousands of other tests also have been invalidated in recent years . Yet the tests have become all but unavoidable. Every state punishes drivers who refuse to take one

a man in a blue shirt© MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The breathalyzer has long been a standard-issue tool in the police arsenal against drunk driving. The machines are supposed to take the guesswork out of sobriety tests, giving a precise and scientific measurement of whether or not someone has had too much alcohol to get behind the wheel. And when police departments properly maintain that equipment, that's usually what they deliver.

Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that any given police department is using reliable equipment. As The New York Times reports, in cities across the country, police departments have poor maintenance standards and often lack expertise in how to keep the machines up. Some departments use stale or even homemade chemical solutions that don't produce accurate results. The most extreme cases produce readings that are as much as 40 percent too high. One department in Massachusetts even used a machine that, fantastically, had rats nesting in it. In the past year, judges in New Jersey and Massachusetts threw out 30,000 breath tests due to human error or lax government standards.

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The Intoxilyzer 5000 breathalyzer machine doesn’t just catch drunk drivers . It is crucial to understand that the breathalyzer does not measure the alcohol content of blood. People with diabetes may have acetone levels hundreds or thousands of times higher than the average person.

A 26- year old forklift driver from New Zealand was so drunk he drove right into an elderly woman's home. If that didn't upset the police enough, he then did the other thing Besides, it's not like you were going to, you know, save the tubes he didn't quite pee in. Those 300 breathalyzer tubes were doomed.

One account out of Washington, D.C., is emblematic of how departments are struggling to reassess these shortcomings and correct them. Per The New York Times:

When Ilmar Paegle was hired to run the breath-testing program for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., his first order of business was to test its Intoxilyzers. Mr. Paegle, a retired United States Park Police officer, was stunned: Every machine was generating results that were 20 percent to 40 percent too high. That discovery, in 2010, most likely meant that years of faulty tests had convicted innocent drivers. Mr. Paegle’s predecessor, Kelvin King, who oversaw the program for 14 years, had routinely entered incorrect data that miscalibrated the machines, according to an affidavit by Mr. Paegle and a lawsuit brought by convicted drivers.

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Car breathalyzers can measure a driver ’s blood alcohol content from their breath or through the fingertips. Alcohol ignition interlocks include devices that drivers can The breathalyzer calculates the equivalent blood alcohol concentration based on the amount of electrical current it detects.

Driver in Jail After Failing Home Breathalyzer Test . Some individuals who are charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are dealing with the life-long One condition of her release was that she had to submit to three breathalyzer tests every day and send the monitors to law enforcement for review.

Paegle also found that King had been brewing his own chemical solutions for the department's breathalyzers. And, shockingly, King is still employed by Washington, D.C.'s, Metropolitan Police Department.

Despite Paegle's concerns that nearly a decade's worth of test results were tainted, the attorney general only agreed to acknowledge problems in cases over the previous 18 months. The AG's office decided that 350 people had been convicted based on test results that skewed way too high and notified the lawyers in those cases. However, another 700 people had been convicted in that same timeframe whose cases the attorney general decided didn't rely entirely on the breathalyzer results. And the majority of those cases ended in guilty pleas by the defendants, who believed that prosecutors had ironclad scientific evidence backing them up.

It's not just poor maintenance of breathalyzers either. As CBS News reported in 2018, some Washington state defense lawyers have long suspected that the company providing breathalyzers to the state's police, the German medical technology company Draeger, relied on faulty source code. One lawyer, Jason Lantz, had a software engineer and a security researcher examine the source code, and the two experts found in a preliminary report that the software had flaws that could produce inaccurate results. Draeger threatened to sue, claiming that the report violated a protective order the experts agreed to, and the research was abandoned.

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Last year , I got a tip about a legal fight in Washington over the reliability of the state’s alcohol breath- testing machines. I wanted to know something pretty simple: Are the breath tests used to convict drunken drivers accurate?

Drunk driving kills almost 10,000 people a year . A serious penalty has to be put in place to prevent the fact that drunk drivers kill this many people a year . This statistic might not mean a lot to the people reading it, but a year and a half ago I lost my friend of four years because of a drunk driver .

In recent years, police forensic techniques that were once thought ironclad have turned out to be error-prone and subjective, like blood-spatter analysis, or outright bunk, like bite-mark evidence. In the case of breath tests for blood-alcohol content, even if the science were sound, the actual execution could be faulty, leading to thousands of wrongful arrests and convictions every year.

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