Washington, D.C. is reporting that nearly 400 people convicted of drunk driving since 2008 may have been convicted with inaccurate breathalyzer results. Half of those convicted spent time in jail, perhaps unnecessarily. D.C. Attorney General, Peter Nickles, said that the machines were improperly calibrated by the police. The inaccurate calibration led to results that were up to 20% higher than the actual blood alcohol level. Such a mistake could have resulted in wrongful convictions or may have wrongfully earned a more severe sentence under the wrong belief that a person was highly intoxicated.
Requests for new trials, expungements, and even lawsuits against the District have already begun pouring in. Some of the verdicts will stand based on other, still useful, evidence such as police testimony or subsequent blood and urine testing. Nevertheless, other cases may need to be re-tried without the inaccurate breathalyzer results.
These machines require precise calibration and proper care and maintenance at all times in order to give an accurate blood alcohol reading. A good DUI lawyer will challenge the accuracy and validity of test results to try and remove the results from evidence. This story will add fuel to the debate that these tests too often produce inaccurate results.