Hundreds of people who were convicted of DUI over the past several years stand to have their convictions thrown out due to police error, according to the San Francisco Gate. The problem lies in the initial breath test devices used in the field, and the cops’ failure to test these devices for accuracy.
The devices are initially used at the scene of a suspected DUI. Though some drivers refuse these initial tests and instead opt for the more sophisticated breath or blood tests offered at the police departments, these preliminary tests prove crucial in many DUI cases.
According to Public Defender Jeff Adachi and District Attorney George Gascon, up to 1,000 cases could be affected.
The problem came to light when lawyers with the public defender’s office realized the devices were always displaying a perfect reading when tested for calibration—something that’s improbable at the very least.
The devices, called Alco-Sensor IVs, are required to be tested every 10 days or after 150 tests to ensure proper readings. The tests are done by having the machine read the alcohol level in a testing canister, a canister which maintains 0.082 percent alcohol level constantly. But in page after page of the testing logs, officers were printing that the machines read exactly, 0.082 percent and were never in need of recalibration.
Public Defender Adachi said, “It would be mathematically impossible for that to occur. The results that we have here plainly show that the accuracy testing was not being done.”
The issue goes back to 2006 and it’s estimated that anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people may have been convicted of DUI on the basis of these flawed readings during that time. Those are cases that were built almost entirely off the reading of these preliminary breath testing machines.
The Alco-Sensor IV machines have since been pulled from use and the traffic division is undergoing an investigation as to why protocol was not followed in the maintenance of these machines.
District Attorney Gascon says that the failure to truly test the machines doesn’t amount to criminal behavior on the part of the officers, merely negligence. It isn’t clear if anyone will face disciplinary action for what seemed to be a widespread practice.
Currently, the District Attorney’s office is advising people who were convicted of DUI’s during this time to get in contact with their attorney.
When you are accused of drunk driving, you expect the police to act with some level of integrity. But when that fails to happen, you want an attorney on your side who is interested in getting you the most positive results possible on your case.
If you are charged with drunk driving, contact our attorneys today for a criminal defense case evaluation.