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Expired breath testing devices and the outcome of DUI cases

A breath testing device, used for those suspected of driving under the influence, contains a solution that establishes accurate blood alcohol readings.

The required solution has an expiration date, which can become an issue as illustrated by a 2016 incident in Philadelphia.

What the machine does

A breath test device is a computer with a mouthpiece attached. When you breathe into it, the machine measures the blood alcohol content in your system. If the BAC measurement is 0.08 percent or above, you have met or surpassed the legal limit for driving in the state of Oklahoma.

The Philadelphia issue

In the summer of 2016, a private Pennsylvania attorney informed the Philadelphia Police Department that the calibrations on the breath test devices they were using had expired. More specifically, the solution that actually establishes accurate BAC readings was now out of date. The machines were immediately removed from service. New solution replaced the outdated solution, and the breath tests went back on line, but that was not the end of the matter.

The effect on DUI cases

The police department contacted the district attorney requesting that they review the DUI cases for the previous six months to determine whether the calibration issue would affect outcomes. The attorney who brought the calibration issue to light estimated that it could affect 500 to 1,000 cases because defense attorneys could say that breath tests taken on expired equipment were inadmissible in court.  

Machines can err

If law enforcement arrests you on suspicion of DUI, you will find face expensive fines, possible suspension of your driver’s license and even some jail time, depending on the circumstances. In addition, a conviction will appear on your record, which may pose problems for you going forward in terms of getting into college, applying for a job or even renting an apartment. Clearly, there is much at stake, which is why breath testing device operation will be an important part of an investigation into the way authorities handled your arrest and may play a significant role in the outcome of your case.

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