DC: Bogus Breathalyzer Results May Go Back a Decade

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper
dc bogus breathalyzer results may go back a decade

Motorists in Washington, DC may have been falsely accused of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) for more than a decade as a result of faulty “Intoxilyzer” breath testing equipment. Whistleblower Ilmar Paegle, a veteran police officer now working as a contract employee for the District Department of Transportation, argued in a memorandum to the city’s attorney general that the breath testing machines have not been properly calibrated since 2000, as first reported by WTTG-TV.

To date, the District has only admitted to bogus breathalyzer results taken between September 2008 and February 4, 2010. Of 1100 cases prosecuted in that period, 300 were convicted based on evidence provided by faulty machines.

“As a result of the miscalibration the instruments apparently produced results that were outside the acceptable margin of error to be considered accurate,” Deputy DC Attorney General Robert J. Hildum wrote in a June 4 letter to DC trial lawyers. “OAG [office of the attorney general] is in the process of notifying the defendants and their counsel in those cases.”

Paegle’s discovery that the breathalyzers producing bogus results forced the Metropolitan Police Department to stop using the machines on February 4 and switch to Intoximeters. Hildum blamed the problems on Officer Kelvin King who began replacing motors in the breathalyzers in September 2008 as part of routine maintenance. Under DC law, the machines must be tested for accuracy every three months, but the District failed to codify procedures or standards for this testing. Paegle was concerned that the District has never performed these accuracy tests, raising concern among legal experts.

“You too could have been pulled over on the basis of a minor traffic violation and put through a series of difficult and humiliating field sobriety tests,” DC-based defense attorney Jamison Koehler wrote on his law firm’s blog. “After blowing into the breath test machine, you could have spent the night in a jail cell with other people who were drunk, angry, disorderly, mentally ill or whose sweating, panting and retching signaled to you that they going through drug withdrawal. You could have had to shell out thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer and missed work on so many occasions to attend court hearings that your employer warned you might be fired…. On the basis of the faulty breath test results, you too have been convicted of driving while intoxicated even with blood alcohol levels far below the legal limit.”

A copy of the OAG memo is available in a 220k PDF at the source link below.

Letter to DC Superior Court Trial Lawyers Assoc. (DC Office of the Attorney General, 6/4/2010)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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  • Blowfish Blowfish on Dec 27, 2010

    or if the machine was not calibrated , the court cannot accept its reading totally? Now legally, this may be enough to reverse a conviction.

  • GS650G GS650G on Dec 27, 2010

    One of the primary questions an attorney would ask is " when was the machine last calibrated?" And if the prosecutor didn't produce a current document of accuracy then unless there was other evidence such as a blood test, accident, or an admission of guilt by the driver then it's case dismissed. You can have a strong smell of alcohol on you from having a drink spilled on your shirt. The law gets involved at legally agreed to BAC levels for a reason, to provide a line that once crossed the fines, fees, and most important sky high insurance rates kick in. Anyone that was convicted on a .08 to .10 reading needs to lawyer up and go after this. They stand the best chance of getting a lot of money back, although not their reputation. On a side note I know someone who refused the breath and blood test in DC. They lost their driving privleges in VA but not their home state license. Their insurance was not raised since there was no conviction for the crime, the lawyer took 2500.00. Sounds expensive but compared to the cost of the DUI it was a relative bargain. The insurance alone would have been 3000 a year for 3 to 5 years and the fines much more than that. Plus the community service slavery and classes you have to pay for, and so much more. Drink driving is wrong but it's a cash crop for the system.

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