Are the breath testing machines reliable and how can breath test evidence be used
against drivers in court?
Since technology can fail and be unreliable, we are not willing to put blind faith
in technology, especially when our clients’ freedom is at stake. Washington State
law enforcement agencies use Datamaster BAC machines similar to the one below. The
machines are calibrated with solutions mixed by technicians and they are serviced
and calibrated by more technicians.
The technology is old, and the calibration and processing techniques are fallible.
Sometimes procedures used by the forensic laboratory are found to be of questionable
scientific validity. Because technology is subject to failure, at the Law Office
of Nicole T. Dalton, PLLC, we study the testing process and the machines and science
relied upon by the state. If we find evidence of scientific failures that may be
beneficial to our clients we’re not afraid to use that evidence. We work hard to
protect our clients from mistakes that can jeopardize their freedom.
In Washington police agencies, officers use a breath testing machine approved by
the Washington State Police Toxicology Laboratory to measure the blood alcohol levels
of drivers under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. Although the
officer may also obtain a test while still at the roadside, the results of those
tests done with the hand held device is generally not admissible in court or administrative
proceedings. Breath tests obtained by law enforcement in Washington on Datamaster
or the newer Draeger machines may be used in court against the accused. However,
close scrutiny of the breath testing procedure, machine maintenance, calibration
and repairs sometimes reveals errors that provide a basis to dispute the admissibility
of the breath evidence. Additionally, evidence of potential problems with the testing
process is often admissible to show a jury that the process may be unreliable.
Aggressive criminal defense services available in SW Washington areas including Clark
County, Vancouver, Camas, Washougal, Battleground, Ridgefield, Stevenson, Kelso,
Longview, Cowlitz County, Skamania County, Wahkiakum County and other areas..
Over the last decade, Ms. Dalton and other aggressive defense attorneys have obtained
favorable results by litigating multiple problems with the scientific procedures
and results obtained by the Washington State Police Toxicology Laboratory. This
2010 Seattle Times article discussing some of this litigation. Instead of placing
blind faith in the police agencies and their machines, we scrutinize the science,
the procedures, and the results obtained by police agencies and strive to keep law
enforcement and prosecutors from using junk science in our courts.
Typical BAC Machines
The machines pictured here are similar to those used by Washington law enforcement
agencies to obtain breath alcohol tests. This kind of technology using infrared spectrometry
for breath testing dates back to the 1970s.
We are not willing to place blind faith in the State’s alcohol and drug measuring
At the Law Office of Nicole T. Dalton, PLLC, we are not willing to place blind faith
in the validity of the testing process. Washington holds drivers to a strict standard
of alcohol consumption. We strive to hold the state to strict standards of scientific
legitimacy. The lawmakers who drafted DUI laws and the police officers who arrest
people for driving under the influence are not necessarily scientists. An aggressive
DUI attorney will fight to assure that any evidence used to try to convict be of
proven scientific validity.
Can I be prosecuted for DUI without any breath test results ?
Prosecutors can sometimes still proceed with DUI charges even if the results of the
breath test are not admissible or if no breath test was obtained. The arresting
officer typically presents testimony as to his or her observations and as to the
results of any FIELD SOBRIETY TESTING performed and sometimes officers indicate that
the driver refused tests.
In addition to - or in lieu of - breath and blood results, prosecutors use officer
testimony regarding “field sobriety tests” (FSTs) or Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)
testimony to obtain DUI convictions. Those tests are often presented as scientific
evidence and they are also subject to scrutiny. We understand the theories and procedures
involved in field sobriety and DRE testing and evaluate our cases for errors in the
process - from whether the tests were administered voluntarily to whether the tests
meet scientific standards.
What about blood tests for drugs and alcohol and DUI charges?
The state sometimes uses blood tests to try to prove their DUI charges. Although
the technology used is different, many questions still exist regarding the reliability
of the procedures and technologies used, as well as questions about whether the kind
and amount of substances that may be found can accurately be linked with intoxication.
Call us for a free initial consultation at (360) 213-0013 ... or call Ms. Dalton
24 hours, 7 days per week for urgent legal matters at 503-nine-five-seven-9018.