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Drunk driving charges: What if the Breathalyzer is broken?

Many Baltimore drunk driving arrests hinge on the results of roadside sobriety tests. In addition to coordination exercises, police usually have those suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol submit to a Breathalyzer test in order to get a measurable blood-alcohol content. However, many might wonder what happens if the evidence provided by a breath test isn't accurate?

In many cases, the accuracy of Breathalyzer machines has been challenged in court. If it can be demonstrated that the veracity of a breath test is compromised, a major component of the prosecution's case could be thrown out of court.

Right now, an attorney in another state is trying to determine whether or not the local police department is regularly using defective Breathalyzer machines. The man has requested that the department should release maintenance records under the Freedom of Information Act.

Not long ago, a man was acquitted when repair records showed that the Breathalyzer machine used before his arrest was being used in the field while it was still broken. The attorney has reason to believe that more defective devices might currently be in use, which could affect a number of cases that have been decided or are being prosecuted. Unfortunately, police are blocking his request.

This case shows how important it is to investigate the reliability of the evidence used by prosecutors. It shouldn't be taken for granted that that evidence used in court is accurate, especially when it comes to breath tests that have a history of being unpredictable. If it's found that crucial evidence in a drunk driving case -- or any criminal matter -- is inadmissible in court, then the charges could be dropped or severely reduced.

Source: New York Daily News, "Manhattan DWI attorney sues for breathalyzer maintenance records, claiming broken machines are put back in service," Barbara Ross, Feb. 6, 2013

  • Our firm has experience with a variety of drunk driving cases. To learn more, please see our Maryland DUI page.

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