Another Widespread Failure of Breathalyzers
The unavoidable fact is that breath-alcohol testing machines used by law enforcement are unreliable and inaccurate.
See, for example, How Breathalyzers Work (and Why They Don’t), Why Breathalyzers Don’t Measure Alcohol and Report: Breathalyzers Outdated, Unstable, Unreliable. In recent months, there seems to be an increasing recognition of this reality — and increasing instances of massive shut-downs of these machines. Along with this is the uncomfortable reality of thousands of American citizens who have been (and are continuing to be) convicted of drunk driving based upon false evidence.
A few examples from past posts:
400 Wrongly Convicted in Washington: Faulty Breathalyzers (last year)
Attorney General Finds Widespread Breathalyzer Inaccuracies; Police Shut Down All Machines (two months ago)
Inaccurate Breathalyzers Cast Doubt on 1,147 DUI Cases in Philadelphia (one month ago)
Defective Breathalyzers Could Lead to Tossing Out Hundreds of DUI Convictions (2 weeks ago)
And in yesterday’s news….
Vermont’s DUI Breath Testing Program Under Fire
Montpelier, VT. May 15 – A mistake in the software set-up on a breath analysis machine and whistleblowers’ complaints about unethical lab work threaten dozens of drunken-driving prosecutions in Vermont.
At issue are breath tests performed by a DataMaster DMT machine at a Vermont State Police barracks that authorities say wasn’t set up properly. Amid a broadening inquiry by two defense attorneys, dozens of criminal convictions could be reopened and a handful of civil license suspensions are being overturned.
Hundreds of other cases since 2008 could be in jeopardy because of problems with the state Department of Health’s maintenance of the machines that are used at police stations and barracks to test drivers arrested for suspected drunken driving…
(David) Sleigh and fellow defense attorney Frank Twarog obtained copies of complaint letters written last year by two Department of Health whistleblowers who said sloppy and unethical work by a lab colleague had been reported but unaddressed.
First reported on by the Burlington weekly Seven Days, the letters written by chemists Amanda Bolduc and Darcy Richardson were obtained by The Associated Press through a Public Records Act request.
The Health Department withheld from The AP 16 emails dealing with the DataMaster issue. Assistant Attorney General Margaret Vincent asserted attorney-client privilege or "attorney work product" as the reason.
The whistleblowers’ complaints allege that laboratory technician Steven Harnois tampered with DataMaster machines to get them to pass routine performance checks and kept records so badly that it compromised the chemists’ ability to testify in court about readings.
"I have concerns in his level of integrity and ethics," Bolduc said. "These concerns have been brought to the attention of the program chief on numerous occasions, and still the problem exists," she wrote. Whenever she raised concerns, her boss retaliated against her for it, she said.
From Wikipedia’s definition of "pseudoscience":
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status. Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.