Fraud Blamed for Hundreds of Defective Breathalyzers

Posted by Doug Murphy | Jan 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

Breathalyzers, a/k/a breath test machines, are known for inaccurate reporting. The equipment must be calibrated on a regular basis and the test must be administered appropriately but mistakes are often made. Even then, when no errors are present, the devices can still return a false positive. 

Compounding this problem is now accusations of fraud, but not by persons you would think, like persons who have been charged with DWI due to faulty breathalyzers. Making the claims of fraud is the Michigan State Police Department.

This particular story doesn't take place in Houston or even Texas for that matter, but it still serves as a reminder that just because a breathalyzer renders a result indicating you are illegally intoxicated does not mean that it is true but does mean you should fight the DWI charge.

Police in Michigan Blame Fraud for Hundreds of Defective Breathalyzers

Lansing, Michigan and the surrounding area has the highest rate of DWI arrests and convictions in the state. By far, the majority of those cases have been built on breathalyzer test results that indicate a driver was intoxicated. Now, the state has accused the company contracted to test and calibrate these machines with fraud – and taken more than 200 of the breathalyzers out of service. Questions remain about how many of the thousands of arrests resulting from these breath tests were built on false readings.

Details on the specific problem with these devices remain hazy. According to the Michigan State Police, the agency discovered unusual results in reporting from the company hired to calibrate the machines. The investigation turned up discrepancies regarding the company's records tracking calibration. This led to accusations from the State Police of fraud against the company, including allegations of falsifying documents.

The specifics of the fraud allegations have not been made public but appear to have resulted in false-positive breath tests. Investigators believe the falsified documents could have been fabricated entirely, produced by testing different machines, or simply copied and pasted from one test to another.

Ongoing Cases

The review by the State Police identified at least 8 locations where there were discrepancies in the documentation provided by the company. In total, 52 active drunken driving arrests involve tests from the impacted machines. Michigan State Police Col. Joseph Gasper was quoted as saying that as many as half of those tests could be defective and that the falsified documents provided by the company may constitute a criminal act. Despite these issues, the state has yet to dismiss these charges.

There is little doubt most if not all of the attorneys representing these defendants will move to suppress these reports or ask the court to dismiss the cases entirely. Even if only half of the tests are tainted as the police claim, it places a cloud on whether the defendants are each receiving a fair trial.

Moving Forward

Moving forward, State Police have taken over the job of testing, calibrating, and certifying the machines themselves. They claim more than 25 percent of the machines are now back in working order. Until the issue is completely resolved, the agency has announced it will perform a blood draw in every case where DWI is suspected.  There are many police officers and prosecutors in Texas that also do not believe in the accuracy and reliability and only request a blood test.  There is wisdom that can be drawn from those in the know.

This is a significant cost for the state and a substantial burden for its citizens. Blood draws in Michigan take place at hospitals, which can make the process drag on unnecessarily. Blood results are not immediately available, meaning alleged offenders could be arrested for DWI later after the test confirms alcohol in their system.

Let a Houston Board Certified DWI Defense Attorney Fight For You

The unfortunate truth is that problems with breathalyzers or breath test machines are common. Without perfect calibration, the results from these tests are highly inaccurate. If you believe you are the victim of an inaccurate breath test, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away to discuss how we could help.

About the Author

Doug Murphy

Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and also in DWI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.


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