This is a Guest Post by Paul Young of Young Klein & Associates.
The breathalyzer is dead, and the authorities killed it. Police across the nation use these devices to catch drivers they believe are operating their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol. Hundreds of thousands of convictions later, it turns out these pieces of equipment are unreliable, easily manipulated, and poorly maintained by the state agencies tasked with using them on a daily basis. As more court decisions throw out DUI/DWI convictions and charges in multiple states, it’s time for everyone to consider a new path.
Court Decisions and Old Devices
A judge’s decision in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania forced the entire state police force to stop using the venerable Intoxilyzer 5000 after voicing concerns of the test’s accuracy. It’s important to keep in mind that police have employed this particular model since the mid 1990s, largely without updates, and used faulty test results from potentially thousands of motorists to issue fines and obtain convictions. In nearby New Jersey, defense attorneys have filed suit against the state for its reported failures in updating software for its breathalyzer devices as well as for neglecting to maintain an accurate digital record of data pulled from those devices in violation of court orders.
Authorities in Pennsylvania and other states around the nation are using blood tests to catch motorists suspected of driving drunk, but doing so raises concerns about possible violations of drivers’ Fourth Amendment rights. Every person has a right to keep their own blood, and police may run into issues when they seek to take said bodily fluid without a valid warrant. In our digital world, getting a warrant doesn’t take days. Courts have ruled repeatedly that the speed of technology can satisfy urgency and the need to preserve evidence. Anyone charged with a DUI or DWI offense where an officer took blood for sampling without a warrant or the driver’s permission should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately.
What are My Rights?
Barring a valid search warrant, you have the right to refuse a blood or breathalyzer test. It’s your body. You get to decide who samples your breath and takes your fluids for study. In some states, that refusal comes with a price – the immediate suspension of your driving privileges. An experienced legal team may be able to convince the court to throw out the suspension when they toss DUI charges against you due to lack of evidence.
If you do consent to a breathalyzer or blood test, you have the right to request the findings of those tests in writing along with any maintenance records of the device used. Going through the process is stressful enough on its own, so it’s a good idea to have an attorney handle the discovery requests while you do your best to get a good night’s sleep. What you should keep in mind: just because a breathalyzer shows your blood alcohol level to be over the legal limit, does not mean that’s the case. These devices are old, and in many cases, they can’t tell the difference between a barrel of Scotch and a packet of wintergreen mints.