Every Michigan DUI Case Could Be Impacted by Breathalyzer Test Controversy

A scandal has rocked the foundation of the breath alcohol testing program for DUIs in Michigan. The Michigan State Police (MSP) are currently performing a criminal investigation of those whom were relied upon (and paid 1.26m per year) to ensure that the results of the 203 Datamaster DMT evidential breath alcohol instruments were reliable and accurate.

Those technicians allegedly not only breached their duties to MSP, but also to the entire judicial system. Most importantly, they called hundreds, if not thousands, of breath alcohol results into question.

The History of the Datamaster in Michigan

The Datamaster DMT is the instrument that is used throughout the state pursuant to  the breath alcohol program created and administered by MSP. There are a series of administrative rules that were created to ensure the reliability and accuracy of the results.

Many of the rules are the responsibility of the police department in which the instrument is housed. Others are followed by the certified breath test operator, most often the arresting police officer.

However, some of the most important rules involve the regular maintenance and calibration of the instrument. For the past 20 years, those responsibilities were delegated to the manufacturer’s service technicians. The manufacturer’s name is National Patent Analytical Systems based in Mansfield Ohio.

Until 2015, the three service technicians that calibrated all 203 Datamasters in Michigan worked for NPAS. Then, the entire company was sold to a competing breath test manufacture, Intoximeters Inc. based out of St. Louis, Mo. The new company replaced two of the three service technicians in 2018 and, potentially, this is where the problems began.

What are These Technicians Supposed to Do?

These technicians have the responsibility of performing a comprehensive check on each instrument every 120 days. This check includes calibrations, linear three point accuracy checks, signal interference checks, and 5 accuracy simulations. Yes, this is a lot of “mumbo jumbo” to most, but without these very important tests, the instrument cannot provide reliable measurements.

It was reported by MSP that at least two of the three service technicians are being criminally investigated for falsifying instrument calibration reports. The alleged crime is forging a public document, which is a 14 year maximum felony. Instead of performing the actual required 120 day service, they “cut and pasted” the documents and emailed them to MSP.

The reason cited by MSP was that they were too lazy to do their job. The reliability and accuracy of the instruments heavily relied upon by the entire criminal justice system in DUI prosecutions all over the state of Michigan were in the hands of criminals who are accused and likely to be convicted of felonious conduct. This is nothing short of a statewide scandal.

All DUI Convictions Associated with Their Datamaster Calibrations Should Be Set Aside

If these technicians are willing falsify certification records, the real question is: what else are they willing to do? Their credibility and therefore the credibility of the entire breath alcohol testing program has been significantly damaged. Not only perhaps have they been falsifying records by cutting and pasting, but what if they have been placing false information and data on their reports? Take the following example:

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Measurement calibration is a highly scientific endeavor. When we calibrate a scale, like one in a person’s bathroom, a standard weight must be used. When we place a 100 pound weight on the scale and it reads 100 lbs., it does not need to be calibrated for that weight. The question is, how do we know that the 100 pound weight really weighs 100 lbs.?

The standard weight itself has to be calibrated with another standard weight which repeats itself until the standards are traceable to a universal authority. In this case, it is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This principle is called traceability. This fundamental principle of metrology (the science of measurement) applies to every measurement in science. This includes the calibration of a breath test machine.

The technicians must use standards that are traceable back to NIST and in accordance with ISO 17025. They have to certify that the standards they are using are of the “correct chemical composition.” They also must use standards that are not expired. If the standards are not reliable, the measurements are not reliable. In the past, they have been deceptive and hidden the use of unacceptable standards

It is similar to a police officer who has been found to have the propensity to lie on the witness stand. The entire history of testimony is now in question and may be enough to overturn multiple of convictions in the interest of justice.

Michigan State Police’s Response to Controversy

The Michigan State Police are trying to minimize the impact that these technicians have had on the entire program. Presently, they are confining their investigation to the “cut and paste” actions. This is short sighted and oblivious to the much, much bigger problem. Everything that these technicians have done should be in question.

If it takes invalidating every single breath the breath test that was obtained while they were responsible for their maintenance and calibration, this is what justice requires. Our constitution requires innocence unless guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. These actions have created reasonable doubt in the  results of every test. If one person was wrongfully convicted due to their actions, that is one too many.

In order to ensure the constitutional guarantees of those accused, unless it can be proven that they have not falsified records in any capacity, or that they have not given false testimony in court OR that they themselves are innocent of these accusations; the convictions of those whose breath tests results were relied upon in their prosecutions must be set aside.

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What about Alternative Independent Evidence of Guilt?

The MSP states that it is not necessary to question the convictions, because there exists other evidence of the offense charged. Evidence like speeding, swerving, failed field sobriety tests and car accidents perhaps would stand alone in sufficient evidence of guilt. That may or may not be true, and can only be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The first step is to set aside the convictions and then evaluate the facts of the case. Or, perhaps the right thing to do is to wipe out hundreds, if not thousands, of convictions because this is the only way to be 100 percent positive that these technicians have not robbed an untold number of people their constitutional right to due process and fairness, which is the cornerstone of our criminal judicial system.

This is the only way to ensure it remains considered the gold standard for the world. Anybody that has a pending case or even a previously resolved case should communicate with their local prosecutor and DUI attorney to see if they received information or notice about whether those breath instruments were affected.