A state audit of the Attorney General's Office is raising questions about whether invalid equipment was used in North Dakota DWI breathalyzer tests from 2018 to 2020.
Almost three dozen expired or otherwise unapproved gas canisters were allegedly used in DWI (driving while intoxicated) breathalyzer tests during those two years, according to the results of a routine investigation by the State Auditor. DWI breathalyzer tests attempt to measure a person's BAC (blood alcohol content) level by analyzing exhaled particles. The legal limit for DWI, also known as DUI or driving under the influence, is 0.08% BAC.
The discovery invalidates 34 tests conducted using degraded equipment and casts doubt on the accuracy of thousands of other DUI tests done in the state as well, the auditor says. According to the audit, this corrupted evidence should be dismissed from use in court.
Can't trust a breathalyzer
If reading this blog is giving you deja vu, that's understandable.
Investigations that highlight failures of the DUI breathalyzer test are becoming routine. The breathalyzer's reputation is getting the criticism it should have gotten a long time ago. Within the last year or so, a handful of scandals have seriously discredited the flawed equipment. Many district attorney's offices don't even bother to submit breathalyzer results as evidence in DUI trials. In the Midwest, there is a state police force alleging poor machine maintenance may have skewed results.
Attorney Amanda Webb pushes back against prosecutors who want you to think their DWI case against you is strong. Our law firm has built a reputation in Conroe and the greater Houston area for exposing shoddy evidence and discrediting charges. As a former assistant district attorney, Amanda Webb is deeply familiar with the state’s criminal justice system. She uses this knowledge to fight for people facing DWI charges in Texas. Our legal team doesn't accept a prosecutor's narrative or police report as facts. We dig deep to find out exactly what happened so that we can fight for the best possible outcome of your case.
AG denies audit
Despite its many shortcomings, some law enforcement and justice department officials still have faith in breathalyzers. The North Dakota AG, for one, refuses to believe the state audit.
The attorney general there says he does not accept the report. He says that there are measures in place to prevent the use of expired or otherwise unreliable equipment during DUI tests, according to local media. He did not explain how the auditor found 34 instances across 11 jurisdictions where expired or otherwise defective gas canisters were used in breathalyzer tests.
Auditors reviewed more than 8,900 tests analyzed by the State Crime Laboratory from 2018 to 020. In breath tests, gas standard canisters work as a check to make sure that the equipment is working correctly and is properly calibrated. If the machine isn't set up correctly in the first place, the results cannot be trusted.
To prevent the further use of faulty equipment in DUI tests, the auditor recommends that the lab have someone inspect and ensure gas canisters are "approved and replaced" before the expiration dates.
The attorney general says that there is no need for action: The state is transitioning away from using the machines that utilized the invalid canisters creating inaccurate results. The Intoxilyzer 8000 style breathalyzers are being replaced with Intoxilyzer 9000s. There are plans to replace around 120 machines over the next two years. The 9000 model has a feature the manufacturer says will stop it from running a test if the gas canister is not valid.
The status of the 34 cases involving invalid tests is not clear. Nor is it clear how the audit will impact the thousands of other tests conducted from 2018 to 2020.
Even without the discovery of faulty gas canisters, there are many ways a breathalyzer DUI test can be corrupted. Among the things that can influence the results of a breathalyzer are improper sample handling, human error, inaccurate interpretation of results, and defective equipment. Recent news that further discredits breathalyzer results includes:
- Poor test-result quality leads to the possible reevaluation of more than 25,000 past DUI convictions in Massachusetts. Almost every district attorney's office no longer submits breathalyzer results as DUI trial evidence. New Jersey is in a similar situation.
- The Michigan State Police allege the company hired to calibrate their breathalyzer equipment produced false records.
- Recalled test tubes were used by law enforcement nationwide in possibly thousands of breathalyzer tests to support DUI charges. The lab equipment was recalled because some of the tubes in a batch of more than 100,000 did not contain a chemical necessary to properly preserve the sample for testing.
- In Georgia, local and state law enforcement are transitioning away from breath BAC tests in favor of blood analysis. The state is using grants to train officers to properly draw blood and purchase necessary equipment.
Don't take chances with your future
In Texas, the breathalyzer still has a large role in DWI arrests and charges.
Some prosecutors still like to hold up stationary breathalyzer test results as bulletproof evidence. Police use roadside breath tests to help establish probable cause. If you are facing DWI charges in Conroe or the greater Houston area, you need a criminal defense attorney who understands what it takes to get charges reduced or dropped.
Our law firm is aggressive about defending you when your future is on the line. We understand how damaging a driving while intoxicated charge can be to the life you have built. The harsh penalties available to judges include imprisonment, large fines, community service, and loss of your driver’s license, among other punishments.
Don't delay. Get an experienced Texas DWI lawyer and defense attorney by your side. Contact us today to schedule a free case review.