Over 75 percent of all alcohol related DUI arrests in the Metro Detroit area rely upon a alcohol breath test to measure bodily alcohol content (BAC) instead of a blood test. The reason is that a breath test is much more easily administered and less invasive. That is the reason that breath alcohol tests were invented. It is the primary piece of evidence used against the accused drunk driver. The evidentiary breath test machine used at every police station in Michigan is called a Datamaster.
The results of the Datamaster breath alcohol or breathalyzer test in every case is incorrectly presumed to be accurate by almost everyone in the criminal justice system including the police, judge, prosecutor, probation officer and unfortunately, most defense attorneys. This presumption by most people involved creates an unfortunate perception that the breath test is always right and therefore is nothing more than a “guilty box” – it is the sole determining factor as to an accused guilt or innocence. If the number the “guilty box” produces is higher than a .08 – the defendant is guilty. So much for being presumed innocent. The innocence presumption has been slowly eroded in a drunk driving case. From the moment a defendant steps into court for the first time everyone treats him as if he guilty because the “guilty box” said so. The results are even sometimes written on the outside of the public court file.
The fact that makes matters worse is that hardly anyone mentioned above knows how the “guilty box” works. The police officer, judge, probation officer and most defense attorneys all do not know the science that explains alcohol breath testing. The most knwledge we can expect is from the the police officer who can tell you what buttons to push to make it work.
Thankfully, there exist experts in the field of physiology who do know exactly how the “guilty box” works, what its strengths are and its flaws. These experts are available to teach people in the judicial system who wish to learn what they know. These experts also make themselves available to testify to teach judges and juries to ensure justice is rendered.
Dr. Michael Hlastala is a retired professor in Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington. He has testified as an expert in breath alcohol testing in over 1,500 cases with over 40 years of experience. Dr. Hlastala is one of the country’s leading experts on breath alcohol test instruments exactly like the Datamaster and gave a presentation this past Tuesday, March 5, 2013 in Lansing, Michigan. His presentation was sponsored by the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys (MIAOWIA). Barton Morris is an inaugural member of MIAOWIA and attended this exclusive event along with approximately 20 other DUI defense attorneys from around the state.
Dr. Hlastala spoke in depth about the science of breathalyzer testing, stressed its limitations and provided effective strategies to defend those accused by the “guilty box”. He detailed the scientific reasons that the Datamaster discriminates against women and the elderly. We discussed how gastro esophageal reflux disorder, acid reflux, most often leads to artificially high BAC results and why. He reviewed the major physiological factors that must be considered in every breath alcohol test case including breath volume, body temperature, pretest breathing pattern, inhaled air volume, lung volume, hematocrit and lung disease.
Subsequent to his presentation, the state’s best OWI attorneys conferred about defense strategies and plans to influence cities and municipalities to produce additional evidence to fight these cases.
It is only through the effort to understand and the willingness to learn about the science behind breath alcohol testing that effective defense of the “guilty box” and the presumption of guilt can be made.
Without knowledgeable and expert criminal defense of DUI cases, the “guilty box” mentality will continue to pervade our criminal justice system. When it is properly challenged the rest of the criminal justice community including the prosecutors, police officers and judges, will learn that the Datamaster is not a guilty box – just because it says something does not always mean it is true. Persons charged with DUI are presumed innocent and machines make mistakes because humans made and operate them.
If you or a loved one has been accused of an alcohol related driving offense like OWI in the Oakland, Wayne and Macomb county communities of Royal Oak, Troy, Bloomfield Hills, Warren, Sterling Heights, Detroit, Birmingham, Farmington Hills, Livonia, Rochester Hills, Shelby Township or any surrounding area, call Attorney Barton Morris at (248) 541-2600 for expert and DUI specialized legal defense.