A few years back the California Supreme Court ruled that drunk drivers charged with Driving Under Influence might be allowed to challenge the results of their Breathalyzer tests based on certain mathematical ratios.
Under the California DUI law, a suspected drunk driver may submit to either a breath test or a blood test to measure the level of their blood alcohol concentration. For the breath test, the drivers’ BAC level is measured through their breath samples collected by the Breathalyzer machines. A driver in California found to have 0.08% BAC or higher is deemed legally charged with DUI.
Generally, the entire DUI case filed by the prosecution is built on the results of the defendant’s breath test. While the defendant’s driving behavior and the results of the field sobriety tests are factors considered in a DUI case, the prosecution relies heavily on the results of the defendant’s breath test as the most significant form of evidence against the defendant. With the Supreme Court ruling, however, the supposed infallibility of the Breathalyzer results can now be challenged.
While experts say that the standard ratio used to determine the driver’s BAC concentration from the collected breath sample generally approximates or underestimates the actual BAC, they also agree that breath test machines also overestimate the level of blood alcohol content of the subject. The evidence that casts doubt on the accuracy of the breath-to-BAC conversion ratio is now deemed as relevant as other forms of evidence commonly used to rebut the presumption of intoxication from the test results, such as the evidence of the defendant’s good performance in filed sobriety testing or high tolerance for alcohol.
In California, challenging the breath test results, if done properly and effectively, may cause a defendant to get a plea deal or may even get the DUI charges dropped, which was not formerly possible.
Minnesota Supreme Court Limits Challenges to Breathalyzer Tests
On the other hand, we blogged several months ago that the Minnesota Supreme Court finds intoxilyzer results reliable after six years of being challenged by Minneapolis DWI attorneys.
The judge has found computer code errors on the breath test machines, but said that the errors do not materially impair the validity, accuracy and reliability of the breath tests’ results. The state’s highest court voted in favor of upholding the earlier ruling of the lower court that the results of the breath tests machines in question were reliable enough to use in DWI cases in Minnesota, despite any source code errors.
The recent ruling from the Supreme Court is about to make a big impact on more than 4,000 DWI cases put on hold pending the decision of the high court. Aside from the ruling stating that the Intoxylizer test results are reliable to use, the majority of the justices also ruled out that the source code issue can no longer be challenged in individual cases by the defendants’ DWI attorneys. The ruling that the evidence of issues regarding the machine’s reliability be eliminated in an individual case may hinder the defendant’s ability to dispute the credibility and weight of the breath test results.
As most Minnesota motorists know, refusing an implied consent test is a crime in Minnesota. Typically, the machine registers “deficient sample” if the DWI suspect is not able to supply a sufficient amount of breath sample during the test. The prosecutors use this reading to charge the suspect with test refusal, and a version of the machine’s software has known flaws that can register false “deficient sample” readings.
The ruling has left the defendants disadvantaged since the DWI case can now essentially become a credibility battle between the officer and the accused. Additionally, any defendant may be barred from presenting evidence that could prove the machines flaws. Presenting evidence of the faulty machines could have allowed the defendant to rebut the testing officer’s conclusion that the defendant didn’t blow long or hard enough into the Intoxilyzer.
Although the recent ruling by the Supreme Court may create a huge impact on thousands of pending DWI cases and future drunk driving cases, DWI defenses still do exist and will continue to exist.
Minnesota DWI laws may be constantly changing, but defense attorneys are also keeping themselves abreast with the law and are working harder to build new defense strategies for their falsely accused clients.
If you’ve been charged with an alcohol related driving offense in Minnesota, don’t hesitate to contact attorney Douglas Kans, an experienced DWI lawyer who is experienced and well equipped to defend your DWI case. You can contact Kans Law Firm, LLC at (952) 835-6314 for a free case consultation.