Too many drivers in Allegheny County have convictions on their driving records because of errors on two of the state's most common breathalyzer tests, the Intoxilyzer 8000.
Drivers contend that the machine is simply wrong, that they were not intoxicated when the machine rang up breath alcohol levels high enough to convict them of driving under the influence.
We're not talking about a few thousand Pennsylvanians with false DUI convictions. More than a million state residents have been found guilty of drunk driving in the last decade. These convictions have been costly to the convicted in every way, harming their finances, their reputations and their futures.
Granted, a lot of drivers are driving that should not be driving. But the law is punishing people who have hurt no one; they simply had the potential of causing harm. For the state to use dubious technologies to boost these numbers is unconscionable.
Many mistakes can be made with the Intoxilyzer 8000 at every step - from calibrating the machine to administering the test to interpreting the results.
The worst mistakes occur during testing. The machine operator is supposed to ensure that no conflicting electronic instruments are nearby. The operator is expected to observe the arrested individual for 20 minutes leading up to the first of two breath tests. Then the operator is supposed to obtain results that are very close to one another - with a 0.20 parameter.
Take a shortcut on any of these steps, and the results are invalid and should not be admitted as evidence.
Too many variables
Meanwhile, numerous variables can ruin the reading. Eating yeasty food can trigger a false positive. People with reflux issues can likewise trigger the wrong result. People with slightly high body temperatures, low fevers, also lead to false results.
These errors occur with the Intoxilyzer 8000. Comparable errors are common with the Intoxilyzer 5000 and the DataMaster DMT. All are well designed and used commonly by Pennsylvania law enforcement. But they all make mistakes.
Without an experienced breath test DUI attorney on your side, you could be the next addition to the list of false positives.