A question of reliability in Michigan’s breathalyzers

If you were pulled over and suspected of drunk driving, you would expect the officer to administer field sobriety tests, a PBT on the roadside and then at the jail administer a breathalyzer. However, that scenario has changed in the past week. Now, suspected drunk drivers can expect to be transported to a local hospital and have their blood drawn to determine their blood alcohol content.

Why is this happening?

On January 13, 2020, Michigan State Police placed its 203 breathalyzer machines out of service in light of questions about their reliability. Michigan State Police hired Intoximeters, Inc. in 2018 to calibrate and maintain the state’s breathalyzer machines. Recently, Michigan State Police has publicly accused the company of fraud and pulled all of its breathalyzers out of service.

What does this mean for the suspected drunk driver?

Now, anyone suspected of drunk driving can expect to be taken to the hospital and have their blood drawn before being transported to the jail. The results will not be instantaneous. Instead, the blood will have to be mailed to state police forensic lab to be tested. This will mean a longer wait before knowing if you were in fact driving while intoxicated and are being charged. Although the state police forensic lab has shifted some of its staff to prevent significant delays in testing. If you are currently facing charges and going through the criminal process, this could result in a delay or grounds to contest the blood alcohol content determined by a breathalyzer.

Under Michigan’s implied consent law, all licensed drivers have technically consented to submit to chemical testing during an impaired-driving arrest. This chemical test can be a breathalyzer, urine or blood test. It is the arresting agency that determines which test it will use and not the person suspected of drunk driving. Refusing to submit to the chemical test results in an automatic driver’s license suspension. If you have a Concealed Pistol License, you have also consented to submit to chemical testing.

What does it mean for those already convicted?

For those who have already been convicted, it could mean grounds for appeal if the key evidence used to convict was the results of a breathalyzer. It will mean contacting your attorney to find out if how you were convicted could grant you a basis for an appeal.

If you are currently facing driving while intoxicated charges and a breathalyzer was used, contact your attorney and tell them to obtain records of the breathalyzer’s certification.

Protect Your Rights Today

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.