Equipment mishap puts 416 DUI cases in doubt

Philadelphia police say they’re reviewing DUI cases jeopardized by a police Breathalyzer machine that was not properly calibrated for about three months through late February.

Police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said police are working with the district attorney’s office on the matter.

“There are 416 DUI arrests that had issues with the calibration or tolerance levels for those arrests,” Evers said. “So, at this time, we’re working with the DA’s office and all cases will be reviewed again. And cases that went to court and that person was found guilty or pleaded guilty, they will get a new trial.”

As for cases that have not yet been decided, Evers said the portion that relied on the Breathalyzer will not be used. But he said there is still other evidence, including officer’s observations and admissions by drivers that they’d been drinking.

“The Breathalyzer instrument that’s used is basically icing on the cake for a DUI arrest,” Evers said.

Tasha Jamerson, the director of communications for the district attorney’s office, agreed. She said without the test results, other evidence, including observations police made before administering the test, will be helpful.

“During that 20-minute time frame, they are able to take note of the person’s demeanor, if their speech is slurred, if they have vomit on them, if they’re walking unsteadily, if they in many cases will admit that they have had six or seven beers to drink before getting into the car,” she said.

Police said additional protocols are now in place to make sure the Breathalyzer problem doesn’t happen again.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal