The tests that determine drunk driving are often unreliable, and judges are starting to question them, a New York Times investigation finds
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- Alcohol breath tests, used by police stations across the country to convict drunk drivers, often produce inaccurate results, a New York Times investigation found.
- The skewed results can be from problems with software or how police stations maintain hardware. Still, the tests are highly regarded as accurate by law enforcement.
- Now, judges and states are starting to question the tests and throw out thousands of convictions. That can help some who were wrongly convicted, but also could let dangerous drivers off the hook.
- Read more on Business Insider.
Alcohol breath tests, used by police stations across the country, often produce results that are incorrect, an investigation by the New York Times found.
The tests can produce inaccurate results if they’re set up incorrectly, or maintained poorly, according to the report. There are some states that use versions of the devices that aren’t recommended by experts, use “home brewed” chemicals that throw off results, or have disabled certain safeguarding features, further exacerbating issues, the report found.
This is a huge problem because different versions of alcohol breath tests are used in every state. And, they’re regarded as though they are always accurate and correct, and are often a key piece of evidence in drunk driving cases — if someone gets a result that is higher than 0.08, the legal limit in most of the country, they’re highly likely to be convicted of a crime, according to the report.
They are also unavoidable — “Every state punishes drivers who refuse to take one when ordered by a police officer,” wrote Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg of the New York Times.
Issues with the tests have lead states and judges to start questioning the devices, according to the report. In two states, Massachusetts and New Jersey, 42,000 convictions are on the line because of breath test results now seen as questionable. Minnesota and Washington have also started questioning the tests.
The inaccurate tests have caused a lot of harm, the report found. People have been wrongly convicted of drunk driving when tests inaccurately show high levels of alcohol in their blood. When this happens, it can be difficult and costly to fight the charges. Being charged with drunk driving can lead to license suspension, which has an impact on the person’s ability to work and pay back fines, court fees, and legal bills.
On the flip side, when the tests are found to be inaccurate, states discard the results, according to the report. This means that drivers who have committed serious offenses are sometimes let off the hook and back on the road.
Read the original report at the New York Times.