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Unreliable Breathalyzers: Don’t Trust These Machines

Posted by Steve Karimi | Nov 06, 2019 | 0 Comments

It's what we here at the Law Offices of Steve Karimi have been telling you (and our clients) for years: breathalyzers are unreliable. That's according to a new report by the New York Times, which conducted a deep investigation into some serious issues regarding the machines and how they are used in states all across the country.

The Investigation

The Times reporters interviewed hundreds of lawyers, police officers, and scientists and reviewed thousands of documents to conduct their investigation.

Breath-testing devices were not originally developed to be the “end all” in a DUI conviction. To absolutely determine if someone has a blood-alcohol content over .08, there must be a blood draw, which requires a warrant. Breath-testing devices are faster and easier, and every state in the country punishes drivers who refuse to take a breath test.

But in the last year alone, judges in New Jersey and Massachusetts have thrown out over 30,000 breath tests thanks to little government oversight and human error when operating or using these devices. Why? The Times investigation uncovered four key issues with breath testing:

  • Many machines have faulty software
  • Accuracy safeguards can be disabled
  • Machines are rarely maintained properly
  • Calibration records can be faked

Washington Connection

Here in Washington, state law enforcement decided to replace its breath-testing devices in 2009. The machines they picked, even though one of its own scientists said the machines were “not ready for implementation,” was the Alcotest 9510 made by Dräger. In 2015, a Washington judge ordered Dräger to allow outside experts to examine the software in the device. The final report from the outside experts was titled, “Defective Design = Reasonable Doubt.”

This report said the Alcotest 9510 was not a sophisticated scientific instrument and had calculation errors that would round up some results. One of the key safeguards of the machine—measuring a person's breath temperature—had been disabled. Breath samples that are above 93.2 degrees will trigger an inaccurately high result.

Bottom Line

Law enforcement and prosecutors only care about getting DUI convictions. If you have been charged with a DUI after breathing into one of these unreliable machines, they are not going to volunteer that they know the device has had software issues or has not been properly maintained or calibrated. This is why you should never plead guilty to a DUI charge without speaking to an attorney first.

Only a seasoned, veteran DUI attorney can investigate your DUI arrest and identify any problems with either the traffic stop that started it all or with the machine used to test your breath. Just because your breath-test results may have indicated you were over the legal limit, it doesn't mean it was true. The Law Offices of Steve Karimi will protect your rights against an unreliable breath-testing device. Call today at 206-621-8777 or fill out a contact form.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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