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D.C. Unveils New DUI Breathalyzer Machines

by | Jan 17, 2013

District officials, attempting to distance themselves from the 2010 debacle in which hundreds of alcohol breathalyzer tests returned skewed results, have announced plans to begin using a new machine altogether.

Our D.C. DUI lawyers understand that the new machine, the Intoximeter ECIR 2, reportedly tests a person’s blood alcohol content at least two times and also samples nearby air to avoid unintentional contamination.

The district purchased three of these machines at $7,000 a pop. They also display digital readouts, an attached printer, ID scanner and keyboard.

However, unlike the Intoxilyzer 8000, which was routinely used during traffic stops and DUI checkpoints, the Intoximeter ECIR 2 is reportedly too large to lug around in patrol cars. Therefore, officers will transport suspected drunk drivers to one of the district stations to be tested.

This time lapse in itself is concerning, as it may serve to produce potentially incorrect results that could open the door for effective legal challenges. While it’s true that the amount of alcohol in your blood dissipates over time, it’s also true that your blood alcohol level may actually spike for a short time after you stop drinking. So theoretically, and particularly if you are only traveling a short distance, you may have been able to reach your destination without your blood alcohol level ever rising above the legal limit. But because you were detoured with an arrest, the breath machines at the station are measuring a higher blood alcohol content than you might have otherwise registered roadside.

But despite the department’s desire to hold up this new machine as proof positive of driver intoxication, the fact is, the Intoximeter ECIR 2 has been successfully challenged in court as well. In a federal case, U.S. v. Foster, a U.S. District court judge ruled in November 2011 that the arrest of a Virginia man on the basis of Intoximeter ECIR 2 results was not valid because the arresting agency could not provide proof verifying the authenticity of the certificate of accuracy of the machine. The arresting officer testified about how the test was administered, but he was unable to affirm the accuracy of the machine.

We expect there will be future successful challenges in D.C. as well.

Breathalyzer use was halted in D.C. after the district’s medical examiner determined many of the test results weren’t properly certified, which meant they couldn’t be used as evidence in a number of the pending cases.

Mayor Vincent Gray, in an attempt to close the loopholes in the process, did sign a bill that updates the district’s formal procedure for administering the tests. The measure requires more frequent quality-control checks on the machines and allows only specially-certified personnel to administer the tests.

A second bill signed by the mayor served to expand the interlock ignition program. As of right now, though 80 people are eligible for it, only one is participating.

The number of DUI fatalities has been on a slight uptick in recent years, with seven reported in 2010 and eight in 2011. Complete numbers for last year aren’t yet available.

If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call 202-765-3175 or fill out our online contact form.