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Questions about breathalyzer accuracy could help DUI defense

Drivers in Pennsylvania who are stopped by law enforcement due to suspicion of driving under the influence will undoubtedly understand how the results of a breath test can impact their case. If they register over the legal limit, they will likely be arrested and face DWI offenses. Still, there is a fundamental belief that breath tests are accurate and a driver who surpassed the legal limit will have a difficult time avoiding a conviction. A new report suggests that these tests might not be as accurate as they are portrayed. This opens a door for those who are charged with DWI and who adamantly protest that they are innocent to craft a defense strategy and attempt to avoid the penalties of a conviction.

The report from the New York Times indicates that breath tests could be unreliable, with a push to render their results inadmissible. According to the reporters' research, law enforcement is increasingly reliant on these devices. In addition, laboratories cut corners because of the need to complete the tests in a certain timeframe. While there is not one specific cause for the machines being unreliable, flaws within the machine itself or its programming oftentimes are not repaired or addressed. Another reason is a lack of calibration. Since questioning the accuracy of the machines will result in arrests being thrown out, law enforcement is viewed as reluctant to protest about the problems to a significant degree.

As part of the study, programmers evaluated software for one breath testing device. They found several flaws that violated basic procedures. The device itself was not found to be particularly advanced. Even when updates were provided to fix software errors, labs did not perform the updates. Some agencies were found to ignore steps to improve the validity of the tests, such as having the machine correct for deviations in the person's body temperature. The breathalyzer tests are not only used for measurement of the person's alcohol level, but if the driver refuses to take the test, that itself leads to charges.

A growing number of DUI cases are being thrown out of court because of breathalyzer test failures and mistakes on the part of law enforcement. When arrested for drunk driving, it is important to consider the validity of the breath test as part of a DUI defense.

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