When you get pulled over by the police, most of us just assume if they ask us to take a test that the officer knows how to properly administer it and that any devices or equipment necessary are in good working order. If you happen to have had a few too many drinks when you’re pulled over you may not be alert enough to even question it and officers know it.
Technology is great – when it actually works
The fact of the matter is that when you’re administered a breath test you may never actually know if you’re legally drunk. Hitting a .08 is the magic number that will result in your prosecution for DUI. The problem is that no matter how much or how little you’ve imbibed, the machine often spits out a flawed reading. That’s right; you may be convicted on false electronic data when you’re completely innocent.
The New York Times investigated the glitch in administering breath tests and uncovered some pretty horrifying findings. Breath tests are supposed to be accurate to within the third decimal place yet they’ve yielded readings up to 40% higher than what the individual’s blood alcohol content level actually was. Because these machines are so unreliable, between late 2018 and 2019 over 30,000 breath tests were tossed out by judges in Massachusetts and New Jersey alone.
Under South Carolina Code § 56-5-2954, the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and each law enforcement agency with breath testing sites must keep a detailed record of malfunctions, repairs, complaints, or other breath test problems at each testing location. The fact that it became necessary to create a law addressing this says that it’s enough of an ongoing issue that the state had to create a law to force accountability when it comes to breath testing.
What makes breath tests unreliable?
Not surprising, there are regulations and procedures that come along with not only administering breath tests but for maintaining the DataMaster device itself. That leaves a substantial amount of ground to cover to make sure your liberties aren’t being wrongly taken away. After all, what good is a law if it’s not being properly enforced?
Here are just some of the reasons breath tests may be invalidated:
- Machines aren’t properly calibrated by the police departments using them
- Testing labs may use old or improper chemicals that skew results
- Software programming errors
- Safeguards to protect testing accuracy may be disabled by law enforcement departments
SLED maintains DataMaster records and related testing information on its website and section 8.12.6 of the policies and procedures manual indicates that the test is programmed to eliminate any possibility of conducting an improper test. If these machines are so fool-proof, judges across the country wouldn’t be throwing out their results by the tens of thousands.
Getting arrested and convicted for a DUI charge can have lasting, negative consequences that you would do better to avoid whenever possible. Your freedom and path of your future may depend on an electronic device that has been shown to malfunction providing inaccurate evidence used to secure convictions. You need a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who is experienced in finding the flaws in the government’s case and is equally battle-tested in the courtroom.
You need the strong, dedicated legal representation behind you of none other than DUI attorney Tom Holland at Holland Law, LLC. Discussing your legal options in York, Lancaster, or Chester County is as easy as making a phone call. To schedule your consultation in either of Mr. Holland’s offices conveniently situated in Fort Mill on Gold Hill Road, or Rock Hill on Oakland Avenue, call 803-219-2630, or you are invited to reach out to him through his contact page.
Tom Holland previously served as the General Counsel for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, the City Solicitor for the City of Lancaster, and as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Sixth Circuit Solicitor’s Office. He is a single father, and through his own divorce gained valuable insight he now uses to provide Fort Mill and Rock Hill, SC families with the best representation. Learn more about Tom Holland.