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Police officer faces charges over tampering with breath test machine

Posted by Ed McClees | Nov 22, 2017

A New Jersey police officer is facing charges for tampering with the breath machines that are used as tools to convict people charged with DWI.  These charges stem from the officer skipping vital steps in calibration procedures.  Sadly, this is an all too common phenomenon. Recently, the Galveston County District Attorney's office had to dismiss a series of cases because the person in charge of maintaining some of the breath machines was falsifying information regarding those machines. 

Harris County has also seen its fair share of issues in DWI cases.  Several years ago, there was a widely publicized scandal when attempts were made to silence an HPD employee who spoke out about problems with portable breath testing units known as "BAT vans."  Recently, a Houston Police Department officer was charged with Tampering with a Government Record for intentionally putting false information in search warrants to obtain blood samples from DWI suspects.

In most cases, the people who maintain the breath test machines and the officers who make the DWI arrests do not start out trying to falsify records.  In the case of the technical supervisors (the title given to those in charge of maintaining breath test machines), some will start to take short when they become overwhelmed with their workloads. 

Calibration is everything when it comes to any scientific testing. A breath test machine that is not properly calibrated will give a false result. An analogy we often use in trials is that of a bathroom scale. Many of us have stepped on a bathroom scale and thought that the reading did not seem accurate.  Indeed, when we adjust the dial or press the re-calibrate button on this scale, we see a different result.  The same thing applies to breath test machines.

Breath testing technology is notoriously inaccurate.  These devices are better at detecting the presence of alcohol than they are of measuring the amount of alcohol in a person's body.  This problem is compounded by machines that are not calibrated. Every shortcut taken in the calibration process can affect breath test accuracy. Inaccurate breath testing leads to convictions of innocent people.

What do all the scandals involving these falsified reports have in common? These falsifications were discovered by experienced lawyers who spent hours tediously reviewing thousands of pages of records to discover the problems. An experienced DWI lawyer knows what to look for in the breath test records to discover these discrepancies.  If you have been arrested for DWI call us.

About the Author

Ed McClees

Ed is a criminal trial lawyer who is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He is a former Harris County District Attorney where he served as chief of the Organized Crime Section, prosecuting cases involving complex organized criminal activities, including Fr...

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