Over 1,000 DWI Cases Could Be Overturned

A sharp defense attorney in Philadelphia was able to identify a major problem with how Philadelphia police calibrate their Breathalyzer devices and, as a result, 1,000s of DWI cases may be over-turned.

Breathalyzer devices use a person’s breath to measure his or her blood-alcohol level.  A reading of .08 or higher subjects the motorist to a misdemeanor charge of Driving While Intoxicated. in New York  To ensure their accuracy, the devices must be regularly calibrated by a testing lab and checked against a measured test sample.

In Philadephia, it appears that 5 devices were not properly calibrated calling into question 1,000s of DWI cases which now have to be re-examined.  Even without the Breathalyzer readings, prosecutors can still try to prove their cases based on a police officer’s observations of intoxication (i.e., slurred speech, unsteady gait, odor of alcohol, blood-shot eyes, etc.).  Of course, without the reading of a device, it is a much tougher case for a prosecutor to prove.

Philadelphia is not the only city with issues.  In February 2010, accuracy checks of Breathalyzers in Washington were not done.   Similarly, the Nassau County crime lab was recently closed based on various improprieties.

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