The Georgia chapter of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has recognized the Gwinnett Police DUI Task Force as the top force in Georgia for its over 1200 DUI arrests last year. One officer made over 280 arrests! Impressive, right? Here’s the problem: the news coverage of this award.
For some odd reason, many judges and most prosecutors I know here in Georgia believe that Georgia’s Intox 5000 machine is accurate and pretty much infallible. However, there is reason to believe that Georgia’s breath test machine may not be accurate. Well once again we are hearing of breath tests being thrown out because of miscalibrated machines. This from Philadelphia:
“A day after Philadelphia police announced that miscalibrated breathalyzers had compromised 1,147 drunken-driving cases, District Attorney Seth Williams declared he would conduct a wholesale review of all DUI cases during the 15 months in question.
Philadelphia police file 8,000 to 10,000 drunken-driving cases each year, so the review announced Thursday by Williams’ office will involve a staggering amount of work that will take months to complete.
Deputy District Attorney Edward McCann, chief of the Criminal Division, decided to launch the review, said Williams’ spokeswoman, Tasha Jamerson. Assistant District Attorney Lynn Nichols will lead a team of prosecutors and staff that will examine the cases from September 2009 to November 2010.
McCann is also implementing training on DUI cases for prosecutors that will emphasize recognizing potential problems with the Breathalyzer devices.
Finally, Jamerson said, the District Attorney’s Office will start doing its own calibration checks on Breathalyzers rather than depend solely on police certification.
The real bill will be some time in coming.
Besides the cost of reviewing thousands of DUI prosecutions and likely retrying some, the police and city could face civil lawsuits by people wrongly convicted – some of whom may have lost their driver’s license, their job, or their freedom.
Though police officials have a list of about 400 people affected by the miscalibrated machines, Jamerson said Williams had decided a full review was needed.
Though defense lawyers specializing in DUI cases said only two of the Police Department’s eight Breathalyzers had proved inaccurate, police said Wednesday that the total was four. Some court-system sources said that number was likely to increase.”
Georgia’s procedure for “calibrating” the Intox 5000 is a joke. The criteria calls for a State Trooper to come out and inspect Intox machines only once every 3 months; and even then most scientists agree that the protocol is not in any way scientific. Yet these machines are used daily to convict people of DUI. In Georgia, the State does not have to provide information relating to the internal source code of the computer which operates the machine; nor is the State under an obligation to provide full information regarding the testing of these machines; nor does the State maintain breath samples(even though the machine allows it) so that the Defendant could obtain an independent measurement of the breath sample.
Until Georgia truly does independent calibrations daily (meaning not being calibrated by a police agency), with full scientific protocol, how can anyone not doubt the accuracy of such machines?