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A breathalyzer issue shows that testing equipment can fail

If the police stop you on suspicion of drunk driving in Minnesota, a law enforcement officer can order you to take a sobriety test, which may involve a breathalyzer.

A 2016 incident in Philadelphia shows how human error can disrupt DUI testing, not just for one case but for many others.

Notifying police of a problem

In the summer of 2016, an attorney in Philadelphia, PA, notified the police department that the calibration dates on the breathalyzer machines they were using had expired. Calibrations must occur annually and involve bottles of the solution that ensures the accuracy of blood alcohol concentration readings. If the date on a bottle has expired, the solution might not be doing its job properly. The department took the breathalyzer machines out of service, fixed the problem and put the machines back on the line the same day. However, the attorney who identified the problem estimated that the error could affect the outcome of hundreds of DUI cases because inaccurate results of breathalyzer testing would be inadmissible in court.

Implied consent in Minnesota

According to state laws, anyone who drives on Minnesota roads gives their implied consent to blood, breath or urine testing if arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. There is a preliminary breath test, which you can refuse to take, and then there is a more rigorous Datamaster breath test, which by law you cannot refuse to take. Given its high-tech software, the Datamaster is the more reliable of the two, but machines, however advanced, are not infallible.

Knowledgeable defense

The laws regarding the variety of tests given to anyone arrested for DUI are subject to change. It is important that you have representation by a criminal defense attorney who stays current with field tests as well as any updates to the Datamaster testing procedure. Remember that equipment does not always work properly, and those who operate the equipment may make mistakes. You have rights, one of which is to speak with an attorney prior to taking any blood, breath or urine test, and it is a good idea for you to do so.

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