Breathalyzers have been used in DUI/OWI arrests in Michigan for decades. When drivers are pulled over and breathalyzed, they often assume the test results are foolproof and there’s no way to challenge the outcome.
The Michigan State Police recently initiated an investigation of a breathalyzer company used by many of the police agencies. The finding that at least eight breathalyzer machines were interfered with, affecting more than 50 drunk driving cases, might make you ask ‘Did a false breathalyzer test cause my drunk driving arrest in Michigan?
The Detroit Free Press reported at least two contractors of the Missouri-based Datamasters vendor Intoximeters who serviced more than 200 breathalyzers, are suspected of falsifying certification records. Technician errors resulted in the dismissal of one impaired driving case in Montcalm County and six in Wayne County. A flood of appeals on other drunk driving cases is likely to follow.
Intoximeters, the vendor, employed three contract employees responsible for servicing all 203 DataMaster DMT instruments in Michigan. State police officials said records from those service sessions are at the center of their investigation.
The attorneys at George Law are concerned about the latest issue with breathalyzers in Michigan. Breath test devices are notoriously unreliable and police habitually use them incorrectly. Talk to our Michigan DUI/OWI expert about false breathalyzer tests.
What is the Problem with Breathalyzers in Michigan?
The problem with breathalyzers in Michigan is so serious that the Michigan State Police has suspended its three-year repair and maintenance contract with Intoximeters, Inc. of St. Louis because of “performance-related issues.”
Discrepancies in breath test results put the accuracy of over 50 breath tests at risk in Michigan and more are under review, police revealed on Jan. 16.
Michigan State Police Director Col. Joseph Gasper said his agency is aggressively looking at possible fraud by the breathalyzer company’s employees. The breathalyzers are used by the state police, as well as law enforcement agencies including the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department in West Michigan. Police departments noticed intermittent error messages on the devices starting in the summer of 2019.
While drivers whose readings dramatically exceed the drunk driving limit may struggle to claim a faulty breathalyzer led to their conviction, the Datamasters investigation could overturn convictions of many people arrested for OWIs (Operating while Intoxicated). Some of these drivers likely accepted plea deals based on faulty evidence against them and have grounds for an appeal. In some cases, a faulty breathalyzer test likely caused your drunk driving arrest in Michigan. Contact Derrick George at George Law today, for a complimentary review of your case and to examine whether a faulty breathalyzer result led to your DUI/OWI charge.
Which Michigan Police Agencies Were Affected by Breathalyzer Errors?
A handful of police and sheriff’s departments may be affected by the errors. Police agencies that use Datamasters breathalyzers include:
- Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office
- Wayne County Sheriff’s Office
- Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office
- Beverly Hills Police Department
- Pittsfield County Police Department
- Tecumseh Police Department
- Pittsfield Township Police Department
- Alpena County Sheriff’s Office.
- Detroit Detention Center.
How Can Breathalyzer Errors in Michigan Affect DWI/OWI Convictions?
Legal experts believe Michigan is facing a flood of appeals over the faulty breathalyzers. The extent of the problem in the state remains to be seen. In an interview with the Associated Press, Oakland University criminal justice professor Daniel Kennedy highlighted issues in drunken driving cases. He said:
“This could open the floodgates for appeals. In drunk driving cases, one of the first questions any defense attorney asks is, ‘When was the last time the device was calibrated?’ So, if they found problems with how these things were being calibrated, that could wind up being one big mess.”
How Common are Breathalyzer Defects?
A 2019 investigation by the New York Times found widespread inaccuracies in breathalyzers and the way police departments use them.
The New York Times noted judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey threw out more than 30,000 breath tests in 12 months, mainly due to human errors and lax oversight.
Although the breathalyzers are sensitive scientific instruments, many police agencies failed to properly calibrate them yielding results that were 40 percent too high. The results are so flawed, some judges have even stopped relying on them, the Times noted.
Concerns over breathalyzers are nothing new. In 2005, for example, Vermont’s toxicology lab tested machines from four manufacturers. The scientists rated CMI’s Intoxilyzer 8000 as “unsatisfactory” and discovered it gave inaccurate results on “almost every test.”
How Can False Breathalyzer Tests Affect Your Drunk Driving Arrest in Michigan?
Many things can go wrong with breathalyzer tests in Michigan. The problems go above and beyond potential fraud issues related to Intoximeters employees. An experienced criminal defense attorney will look at all of the evidence against you and identify holes in the case made by the police. A lawyer may find:
- Defects in breathalyzers that gave a false positive reading;
- Failures by the police to calibrate a breathalyzer machine properly;
- Procedural errors made by the police in making you take a test that can lead to charges being reduced or dismissed
- The failure of a police officer to stop you with probable cause.
Ask a Lawyer if a False Breathalyzer Test Can Cause Your Drunk Driving Arrest in Michigan
If you or a family member believes a faulty breathalyzer was responsible for your DUI/OWI arrest, please contact George Law, the leading Michigan drunk driving attorney, as soon as possible at 248-470-4300. Nothing in this blog is legal advice. We offer evening and weekend consultations because we know you may be pulled over by police at any time of day or night and being able to talk to an expert attorney is of the highest urgency.