Ventura County, California is looking at the possibility of throwing out hundreds of DWI convictions, thanks to a defect found in some handheld Breathalyzer machines purchased earlier in the year. Sources state these devices have been giving inaccurate readings of blood-alcohol.
Memos have been sent to local attorneys from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, stating there are eight breathalyzers that have shown “erratic results” in blood-alcohol tests taken between January 20 and March 31, an attorney with the felony unit told a New York Criminal Attorney.
There were 128 of the devices in all, each of them costing about $4,800.
The attorney did not know how many people charged with DUI were tested with the devices in question during that time.
“I don’t have the actual numbers,” he said. He said his office was investigating it. “Obviously, we are trying to do what’s right in this situation.”
He further stated that gaining the information should not be too difficult, since data on who used the defective Breathalyzers is entered into the machine. According to him, that brand of Breathalyzer device is no longer being used.
A police spokesman said it was a defective mouthpiece that caused “irregular readings”. He told a Manhattan Criminal Lawyer the broken detectors would be returned to the county in three months after being repaired and tested. In the meantime, the department has returned to using the older model.
There were about 160 clients who were convicted of drunken driving during that period, or have cases pending from that period according to authorities. They will be contacted by police.
According to police, the defective machines could have resulted in false convictions or guilty pleas, thanks to faulty tests.
The Sheriff’s Office will check on a “case by case” basis when it comes to the defective devices and determine where to go next from there.
“These machines have never been infallible and that’s something that defense attorneys have tried to point out for years,” said the a police spokesperson said.
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