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National Breath Alcohol Test Expert Speaks about the “Guilty Box”


breath alcohol test expertOver 75 percent of all alcohol related DUI arrests rely upon an 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. This is the reason that breath alcohol tests were invented. It’s 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.

Facing DUI charges? Unhappy with your current attorney? Request a free consultation now.

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’s 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 knowledge 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. He’s one of the country’s leading experts on breath alcohol test instruments exactly like the Datamaster.

Dr. Hlastala has spoken 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.

It’s 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 DUI defense attorneys, the “guilty box” mentality will continue to pervade our criminal justice system. When it’s properly challenged the rest of the criminal justice community including the prosecutors, police officers and judges, will learn that the Datamaster isn’t a guilty box – just because it says something doesn’t always mean it’s true. Persons charged with DUI are presumed innocent and machines make mistakes because humans made and operate them.

Facing DUI charges? Unhappy with your current attorney? Request a free consultation now.

Barton Morris
Barton Morris has been providing high-quality legal representation in the area of state and federal criminal defense for more than 20 years.
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