Although not originating from Minnesota, this news story is a great example of how breathalyzers police use to measure your blood alcohol concentration are not always accurate. I always like refer to breath testing devices as a machine. As with all machines, such as your vacuum cleaner or your coffee pot, they break down.
A law firm in Vancouver recently alleged that officers issued fines using faulty breathalyzers in British Columbia and subsequently brought a lawsuit over the tough new DWI laws. The new legislation, which took effect in September 2010, allows police officers to issue an immediate roadside driver’s license suspension and other penalties for any driver found to have between a .05 and .08 blood alcohol concentration as calculated by a roadside breathalyzer tests. A reading within the above range would register a warning on the roadside test thereby resulting in sanctions for the driver.
In Minnesota, we refer to these tests as PBT tests or preliminary breath tests. Currently, most police officers in Minnesota are provided with PBT tests which register an actual digital reading of an individual’s alcohol concentration as opposed to simply a warning light. However, in Minnesota these tests are simply used as a form of a field sobriety test to help determine if the officer has probable cause to arrest a person for DWI. They are not admissable in a criminal trial as evidence of a driver’s actual blood alcohol concentration.
A total of 2,200 breathalyzers had been recalled in November of 2010 over concern that the roadside breathalyzer machines may have been miscalibrated, which resulted in faulty warning readings as well as unnecessary suspensions of driving licenses on roadsides. The government has subsequently adjusted these tests from an .05 to an .o6 to give the driver a margin of error. Personally speaking, this seems just silly to me. Does creating a margin of error for a “faulty” machine really make it more reliable?
The lawsuit being brought before the courts of B.C. allege that between September 20 and November 19, 2010, B.C. police officers were negligently administering roadside tests with breathalyzers that were erroneously calibrated. The case’s lead plaintiff is a heavy-equipment operator who registered a BAC level of 0.05 after taking the roadside breathalyzer test. Police officers immediately suspended his driving license. His car was also impounded and he was issued a fine.
The lead or main plaintiff seeks reimbursement for his fine costs and would like his driver’s license reinstated. If the lawsuit is successfully certified as a class-action suit, the drivers penalized during the time period in question will get the chance of having their improperly issued driving prohibitions overturned. They will also have the opportunity to receive reimbursement for fines previously paid and any possible expenses they incurred for vehicle impoundment.
According to the Vancouver Sun, it appears for now, the government is standing firm for those approximately 1200 or so drivers that blew a warn before the government recall. Their tickets will stand and the penalties will not be revoked.
We will be sure to keep track of this story as it continues to unfold.
If you’re charged with DWI in Minnesota, you need to immediately contact a Minnesota DWI Lawyer who will defend your rights. Douglas T. Kans is a DWI attorney who will provide you with comprehensive legal services that you need in order to ensure the best possible resolution of your drunk driving case. You can contact Kans Law Firm at (888) 972-6060 for a free case review.