For the first time since July of this year, DUI cases are no longer being held up due to a shortage of breath test machines. Police were left for months with only one breath test machine in use for the entire Fourth District after the sole supervisor in charge of calibrating the machines resigned. During the intervening months, a new supervisor was hired, and other staff members were trained on proper machine calibration to prevent a lag in service in the event of any one resignation again.
Though DUI cases should now be able to move forward as normal, this high profile slip has shaken confidence in the reliability of the tests. This is not the first time D.C. police have faced roadblocks with testing equipment. In 2011, the city was forced to halt breath tests for more than 2 years after a similar scandal with faulty machines, ultimately costing the city $300,000 in lawsuits from people who were convicted based on unreliable test results. D.C. has experienced problems with more than just breath test machines—between May and July of this year, the medical examiner’s office had to halt blood and urine testing as well, forcing the city to outsource analysis of blood and urine results to other labs at a cost to the city and its taxpayers.
These tests have value for prosecution only so far as they can be proven reliable and properly maintained. Stories like these only highlight the importance of knowing your rights and having your case reviewed by a lawyer, even if you feel test results obtained after a DUI stop look damning. Those tests must be properly calibrated and maintained to be credible, must be administered according to regulations, and test samples must be transported and stored according to specifications by the police and lab. A good lawyer will review all the details of test administration and processing to ensure you’re protected from flawed results.