Another state reassesses use of breath tests in DUI cases

We generally stick to Tennessee criminal law matters on this drunk driving blog, but sometimes matters from out of state send a message to all states. Currently, a district attorney in Pennsylvania is supporting the argument that breathalyzer tests are not reliable sources of drunk driving evidence.

The DA sent a letter to his local law enforcement that will potentially make a big difference in the DWI investigations in his jurisdiction. He suggests that police at least temporarily stop using breath tests and rely on blood tests instead. This announcement presents a couple of matters worth addressing.

The reliability of breath tests isn’t just questionable in Pennsylvania. Tennessee police use the devices as well, the results of which can also put drivers at-risk of facing false DWI charges and convictions. When breath test machines are challenged in other states, those challenges further support the fact that even if a device reads above 0.08, a drunk driving suspect has a chance to defend his name, whether he is in Pennsylvania or Tennessee.

Requiring more blood tests is a controversial tactic. Taking a suspect’s blood is more intrusive than a suspect blowing into a machine. Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether warrants are necessary for law enforcement officials to be able to collect blood samples. If a drunk driving suspect is put through a blood test, the collection of that sample needs to be based on sufficient evidence and, depending on the court’s ruling, the approval of a judge.

Criminal law processes change. They should do so in order to support a more effective and ethical system that serves the best interests of communities and justice. It can be difficult for the average criminal suspect to know what about his case to question. Our Tennessee drunk driving defense lawyers know the right questions to ask.

Source: The Pittsburgh-Gazette, “Allegheny County DA discourages using breath testing for DUI arrests,” Jonathan D. Silver, Feb. 5, 2013

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