An obvious observation about fair law enforcement is reinforced because of recent news: "No one should face a DUI charge based on a faulty breath test."
That truism in a Detroit News editorial is prompted by a startling disclosure two weeks ago, it says:
The Michigan State Police has identified 52 incidents in which faulty breath testing equipment produced inaccurate results in drunken driving cases. Fraud is suspected by the company that calibrated the equipment, MSP Director Col. Joe Gasper testified before a Senate committee.
This is a nightmare, both in terms of public safety and the justice system.
. (Photo: Intoximeters, Inc.)
The agency suspended a three-year repair and maintenance contract with Intoximeters, Inc. of St. Louis, which sold the agency's 203 desktop analyzers of breath test results. The computerized Datamaster Intox DMT devices at state police posts and labs use infrared spectroscopy and provide alcohol content printouts for court evidence.
The company, which was to be paid $1.2 million through August 2021 for checking and adjusting the machines every four months, falsified records and misrepresented when they were calibrated, says Col. Gasper, who ordered a criminal fraud investigation.
"Charges should be dismissed or convictions set aside" for drivers with questionable test results, says this weekend's 14-paragraph editorial.
Those convicted should have their court fees and fines refunded, and should be compensated for attorney costs.
The inaccurate equipment has been in use since 2018. There are possibly many more cases where bad readings have led to DUI charges and convictions.
An expedited review should be conducted of all drunken driving cases in which the defective 203 Datamaster DMT instruments were used.
If police agencies are going to continue to administer roadside breath tests, tighter monitoring of the accuracy of the machines is needed.