1/21/2020Michigan State Police Uncovers Breathalyzer Fraud
Technicians accused of falsifying documents that certified the accuracy of breathalyzer devices in Michigan.
The Michigan State Police director testified before a state legislative committee last week about his decision to take 203 breathalyzer machines out of service over accuracy concerns. The agency has been re-testing the devices to ensure proper calibration after learning that several technicians responsible for certifying the machines' accuracy allegedly fabricated test results. Accuracy is of paramount concern with breath testing machines as a reading of 0.08 on the device is in itself sufficient proof to sustain a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).
In 2018, the state police signed a $1.3 million contract with Intoximeters Inc to have technicians certify Datamaster DMT breath testing units every 120 days, as is required by law. Last April, police noted "noncompliance" by the technicians, including sixty instances of failing to conduct the certifications on time. The technicians also incorrectly recorded lot numbers and expiration dates during testing, and they improperly shared their passwords with jail staff. In August, problems surfaced in a DUI case in Montcalm County. The court challenge revealed that technicians were accessing the devices without properly documenting what they were doing in a logbook, as required. Likewise, six cases were tossed in Wayne County after a breathalyzer failed in testing, but the technician kept the device in service. The state police demanded the technician be fired, but as of January, that had not occurred.
An "irregularity" discovered in the breathalyzer at the Alpena County Sheriff's Department led the state police to confirm that a technician may have forged documents. This triggered the agency to halt all work under the contract with Intoximeters. Additional investigation uncovered more documentary fraud in Beverly Hills, Pittsfield Township and Tecumseh. Prosecutors around the state were notified and police officers were urged to use blood tests until all of the devices are properly inspected and certified. A criminal investigation is ongoing.
This is not the first time breath testing machines have come under close scrutiny. In 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Cout threw out Draeger Alcotest breathalyzer results as unreliable (view case). Georgia's high court questioned the Intoxilyzer 5000 (view case). Ohio justices questioned the Intoxilyzer 8000 (view case).