Judge Says Breath Test Evidence is Unreliable in Washington DUI Cases
By: Gerri Elder
In Snohomish County, Washington, a second district court judge has made the bold decision to reject breath test evidence in DUI cases.
In the past, there has been much controversy about toxicology lab test results for DUI cases in the county. The state toxicology lab has come under fire for making careless mistakes such as inputting incorrect data and inadvertently destroying data. The lab was also found to be using bad software, which accounted for some of the errors.
The judge ruled that results of the breath tests which were given to Washington DUI suspects are compromised and absolutely unreliable. Therefore, he decided that prosecutors will just have to find other evidence in Washington DUI cases if the charges are to stick.
Washington DUI lawyer Ted Vosk told King 5 News that he and a team of other DUI lawyers compiled mountains of evidence that proved that the breath test results in Snohomish County are completely unreliable. The judge agreed and decided to suppress all breath test evidence in the Snohomish County DUI cases that come before him.
The decision could be problematic for DUI prosecutors, as breath test evidence is generally the centerpiece of DUI prosecutions.
One of the huge problems with the breath test results in Snohomish County is that there is no way of knowing whether or not they are accurate. Vosk says that he discovered issues with the method of calibration used with the breath test machine. Given these issues, the breath test results cannot be considered accurate.
Since breath test evidence is often the most vital part of DUI prosecutions, some people are worried that the judge's decision will give the green light for people to drink and drive in Snohomish County.
Vosk says that his work was not intended to allow drunken drivers to beat DUI convictions. He simply wants the state toxicology lab to be held accountable for the inaccuracy of their work.
Since the justice system in the United States is built on the concept that a person is innocent until proven guilty, it only makes sense that proof should be necessary in order for prosecutors to convict drunken drivers. In Snohomish County, at least two judges have said that the results of a breath test are not adequate proof.
However, in Skagit County, Washington, a judge reviewed the evidence and came to the opposite conclusion. This judge, along with several others, ruled that the breath test evidence is admissible in their courtrooms.