7 drunk driving cases affected by Michigan breathalyzer machine issue so far

Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 11:36 AM EST
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(1/16/2020) - Seven drunken driving cases in Michigan have been dismissed for last key evidence due to alleged work performance issues with maintaining breathalyzer machines.

Michigan State Police Director Col. Joe Gasper told the Michigan House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Thursday that one case in Montcalm County was dismissed and six cases in Detroit had breathalyzer evidence dismissed.

The alleged errors with calibrating and maintaining 203 Datamaster machines spread around police agencies in the state, which the Michigan State Police own, lead the department to take over management of them last week.

Intoximeters Inc. had its $1.26 million contract to calibrate and maintain the machines on behalf of state police frozen. The company is under investigation for allegedly falsifying records about the machines.

Intoximeters was under contract to certify all 203 machines every 120 days, perform service calls, complete routine maintenance and testify in court on the accuracy of the machines.

Michigan State Police found alleged discrepancies with Intoximeters' record-keeping on eight Datamaster machines in the state:

-- Alpena County Sheriff's Office from Nov. 14 to Jan. 9.

-- Beverly Hills Police Department from Jan. 22 to June 21, 2019.

-- Detroit Detention Center from Oct. 10 to 13.

-- Montcalm County Sheriff's Office from Aug. 23 to 26.

-- Niles Law Enforcement Center from Jan. 15 to Feb. 18, 2019.

-- Pittsfield Township Police Department from Dec. 20, 2018, to Aug. 7, 2019.

-- Tecumseh Police Department from Feb. 15 to June 28.

-- Van Buren County Sheriff's Department from Nov. 21 to Dec. 9.

The discrepancies include 60 failures to complete the 120-certifications on time, incorrectly recording elements during the routine tests and sharing passwords to the machines with facility personnel.

The first alleged serious discrepancy occurred in Montcalm County, where a technician signed the machine's maintenance log on Aug. 23 but didn't record a reason for the visit.

A Michigan State Police trooper used the machine later in the day on a drunken driving suspect. Prosecutors dismissed the case after Intoximeters couldn't explain what the maintenance visit was for and ensure the machine was working properly for three days.

The second alleged serious discrepancy occurred in Detroit on Oct. 10, when an Intoximeters technician performed a 120-day certification but the machine failed. However, the failure was not recorded and the machine remained in service.

Police used the machine six times before it received service again on Oct. 13. Prosecutors dismissed breathalyzer evidence in all six of those cases, according to Michigan State Police.

Investigators also believe Intoximeters forged maintenance documents for a machine at the Alpena County Sheriff's Department by claiming certain tests were performed when they actually hadn't been.

Intoximeters also is accused of forging maintenance records on three other machines.

Michigan State Police ordered Intoximeters to stop work on its contract and certified department personnel have taken over maintenance of all 203 Datamaster machines.

State police officials took all 203 machines out of service while the investigation continued. Thirty-seven of them have been recertified by MSP staff and returned to service.

Police are advised to rely on blood tests rather than breathalyzer evidence in drunken driving cases where the Datamasters remain out of service.

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