Breath Test Defect Proves That Breathalyzers Aren’t Always Reliable

A manufacturer of alcohol breath testing equipment used across the state of Massachusetts is conducting an inspection of several hundred breathalyzers following the discovery of a defect. On February 3, Draeger Safety Diagnostics testified that the machines in question were improperly programmed, resulting in the use of an incorrect value which may affect the accuracy of OUI-related breath tests. The admission, which was a surprise by all accounts, was made during a court hearing concerning reliability of the company’s Alcotest 9510 breath test model.

The court hearing was in response to multiple breath tests conducted between 2011 and 2015 that are alleged to include readings outside the allowable range. The Alcotest 9510 uses two sensors – an electrochemical cell and an infrared light – when measuring a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If the two sensors fall within the same range, it rules out the possibility that interfering substances may have mistakenly been detected in the person’s system. If the values given by the two sensors are too far apart, the device is designed to shut down due to the potential for inaccurate readings. However, according to reports, the device does not shut down when values are inconsistent, and the inaccurate readings are not subsequently flagged. If you feel that a defective breath test may have contributed to your charges, it is in your best interest to speak with a Boston OUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

MA Breath Test Defect May Have Resulted in False “Over-the-Limit” Readings

On February 3, a Draeger employee testified that the company’s breath test machines use an algorithm to determine whether the readings taken by the different sensors are within 0.008 percentage points of each other. The inspection of approximately 400 Alcotest 9510s did not turn up a single machine programmed with the appropriate value. The majority of the machines inspected actually used a stricter value, which would be favorable to defendants. However, approximately 20 percent used a lesser value, which would make the machine less sensitive to the presence of alternate substances on the breath. What does this mean? If interfering substances are not flagged, the machine could display an over-the-limit BAC reading when the individual’s BAC was, in fact, under the legal limit.

Hearing Stalls Thousands of OUI Cases

Draeger is cooperating with the Massachusetts Office of Alcohol Testing to quickly remedy this problem. A spokesperson for the company says he believes the mistake was a result of human error at the company’s Germany-based factory. According to prosecutors, the error only affected 15 of the 93,000 breath tests conducted in MA during that time period. Whether or not they are correct, the problems with Alcotest 9510 serve as a reminder that breath test machines can be unreliable. As a result of the Draeger case, several thousand OUI cases have been stalled.

Altman & Altman, LLP – OUI Defense Lawyers Serving Boston and the Surrounding Areas

If you have been charged with an OUI, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. If law enforcement officials violated your rights during any step of the OUI stop or arrest, your charges may be reduced or dismissed entirely. We will analyze the details of your unique case and position you for the most favorable outcome. An OUI conviction can have detrimental consequences that may haunt you for years to come. With the help of a skilled Boston OUI defense attorney, you can dramatically improve your chances of keeping your record clean. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our knowledgeable lawyers have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with criminal offenses for more than 50 years. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an OUI is no big deal. We can help you beat these charges so that you can get on with your life. Everyone makes mistakes. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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