Flawed Breath Test Discovered In 400 DWI Convictions In DC


Nearly 400 people were convicted of DWI in Washington, D.C., since the fall of 2008 based on inaccurate results from breath test machines, and half of them went to jail, reports the Washington Post. D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the machines were improperly adjusted by city police. The jailed defendants generally served at least five days, he said. Nickles’s office has begun notifying the drivers, and the discovery is expected to lead to requests for expungements, new trials and even deeper skepticism about the integrity of testing.

The District’s badly calibrated equipment would show a driver’s blood-alcohol content to be about 20 percent higher than it actually was, Nickles said. All 10 of the breath test machines used by District police were wrong, he said. The problem occurred when the officer in charge of maintaining the machines improperly set the baseline alcohol concentration levels, Nickles said. The flawed cases emerged after a review of 1,100 prosecutions between September 2008 and February 2010 that relied heavily on breath test results.

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