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PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys

Defective Breathalyzers Result in Wrongful DUI Convictions

June 17th, 2010

When trying DUI cases,  prosecutors and judges rely heavily on the results of clinical tests such as the breathalyzer to determine an accused person’s level of intoxication.  In Oklahoma, if these tests reveal a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to be .08 or higher, that person is found guilty of driving  under the influence.  Oklahoma City DUI lawyers, however, understand that these tests are not necessarily foolproof.  Defective equipment and improperly calibrated machines can skew the results of a sobriety test, and attorneys argue that such tests should not be the primary evidence in a DUI conviction.  The results of a recent investigation in our nation’s capital help solidify that argument for DUI defense attorneys throughout the country.

Earlier this year, an independent consultant for the capital’s police department determined that the majority of the department’s Intoxilyzer machines were calibrated incorrectly and were giving inflated BAC measurements.  This discovery launched an investigation, the results of which were released last week.  The investigation revealed that, in actuality, not most, but all of the department’s Intoxilyzers were defective.  The equipment gave readings up to 20% higher than a person’s actual BAC.  According to the Attorney General, results were used in 400 DUI convictions; however, DUI defense lawyers claim that finding to be inaccurate, saying the actual number of people affected by these flawed results may be in the thousands.  Approximately half of the 400 acknowledged convictions resulted in jail time.  As a result of the outcome of the investigation, requests for expungements and new trials are flooding the offices of DUI lawyers.  Lawsuits are sure to follow, with at least one already filed on behalf of the wrongfully convicted.

The discovery of defective sobriety testing equipment is not surprising to Oklahoma DUI defense attorneys.  They know that human error and equipment failure can result in false assumptions of DUI.  From poor officer training in administering field sobriety tests to mishandling of lab results to improperly calibrated equipment, there are a number of ways the results of  a DUI test can be flawed and inaccurate.  The faulty Intoxilyzers call into question the validity of at least 400 DUI convictions–and call into question the supposed infallibility of such “clinical” evidence in police departments around the country.

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PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys