Another week, another breath testing scandal. Whether it’s Philadelphia or our nation’s capital it seems like states and counties all over the country are reporting the same issue- faulty breath testing equipment leading to erroneous BrAC readings and false DUI arrests and even convictions. This week it’s Santa Clara’s turn.
The problem is not limited to these cities, it is a widespread problem that stems from the incorrect implementation of DUI breath testing devices. These devices do not measure alcohol directly and thus can flag naturally occurring substances in the body as ethanol. For example if a diabetic has a very low sugar level, or someone in a hyperglycemic state whose body transforms the ketones to isopropanol and/or naturally produced acetone can be flagged as alcohol. In some cases, the use of everyday items like a hand sanitizers has lead to a DUI breath machine reporting a false reading. You can even get a DUI for eating a sandwich. On top of that there are obvious design faults like in the scandal in Santa Clara County.
The icing on the cake is that individual police departments are responsible for maintaining and calibrating their own breath testing equipment, without any meaningful government oversight typically. Imagine an office manager asking an employee to perform a tedious task as per a set schedule and create reports that no one will ever check. What are the chances of this task getting done correctly? This is exactly what is going on in police departments all across the country. Officers with very little training are asked to calibrate their own DUI breath testing equipment without any regulatory body to check and see if they are in compliance.
The really sad part about all of this is that innocent people have been arrested and convicted of DUI violations based on this faulty evidence. They have suffered prison time, lost pay, license suspensions and the humiliation of being a convicted criminal all because of faulty breath testing.
This has really gone on long enough. How many innocent people have to suffer before our politicians wake up and find a better solution?