Drunk Driving Cases Challenged by Flawed Breath Tests

By Kamika Dunlap on June 14, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Have you ever worried about taking alcohol breath tests?

Well, it looks like the 400 people rounded up by the Washington D.C. police had a good reason to. Many of them, including half that went to city jails, were convicted of driving while intoxicated based on inaccurate results collected in the fall of 2008 from breath test machines, the Washington Post reports.

The breath tests results would show a driver's blood-alcohol content to be about 20 percent higher than it actually was, officials said. The machines were improperly adjusted by city police.

As a result, D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickels began notifying drivers, which prompted at least one lawsuit. More challenges to the drunk driving cases also may soon come out of this.

Many of the defendants served at least five days in jail.

The breath test machines are under investigation as the incident has raised questions about the integrity of testing.

In general, if you refuse to take a blood test or a breathalyzer test, your driver's license will probably be suspended for a long period of time. In some states, for example, it will be suspended for six months if you refuse to take a test, but only three months if you take and fail the test (if you are a first offender). Also, in some states the suspension period might be the same, but you will have to do several days of jail time if you refuse to take the test.

The information about the flawed cases surfaced after a review of 1,100 prosecutions, officials said.

But D.C. Attorney General Nickels said the flawed testing does not jeopardize cases involving accidents or injuries, including fatal crashes, because blood or urine samples would have been taken as additional evidence.

The flawed breath tests however, could lead to could lead to requests for expungements, or even new trials.

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