We have often written about Wisconsin's strict anti-drunk-driving enforcement efforts. Every year, Wisconsin authorities make hundreds of arrests for OWI and DWI. Many people assume that an arrest based on breathalyzer evidence is basically an open-and-shut case, but this is not necessarily true.
The fact of the matter is that even "solid" evidence from breathalyzers can be incorrect. Over the last few months, counties in several states have reported significant malfunctions with their own breathalyzer machines. These malfunctions could mean the difference between conviction and acquittal in hundreds or thousands of DUI cases.
For instance, prosecutors in one California county must now review approximately 300 DUI cases after a problem was discovered with the brand of breathalyzers that police have been using since January.
Authorities have questioned the accuracy of the Alco-Sensor V, which was the hand-held breathalyzer device used in these 300 DUI screenings. While other screening methods were sometimes also used, the Deputy District Attorney for the county noted that "it stands to reason that there will be some cases where this was the primary piece of evidence."
But a DUI defense attorney who practices in the county thinks that prosecutors are understating just how often these devices make incorrect readings. In his opinion: "They spent a half-million on a bunch of junk, basically."
As we said earlier, faulty breathalyzers are not just limited to this one county. Similar problems have occurred recently in other parts of the country as well.
It is important to remember that a DUI arrest does not automatically become a conviction, especially if your BAC was measured at just over the legal limit of .08. It is quite possible for mistakes to be made by the arresting officer, and you can challenge breath, blood or urine tests with the help of an experienced defense attorney.
Source: LA Times online, "Faulty breathalyzers spur review of hundreds of DUI cases," Steve Chawkins, 24 April 2011