Pennsylvania State Police Suspend DUI Breath Tests in Favor of Blood Tests

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that the Pennsylvania state police have temporarily suspended their use of breathalyzer machines in drunk-driving cases, amidst a Dauphin County judge’s concerns about their accuracy. The judge dismissed several pending DUI cases in Dauphin County after learning that the manufacturer of the breath-testing machine, the Intoxilyzer 5000EN, had not complied with a key mandate under state law. More specifically, the manufacturer of the breath-testing machine did not comply with the state’s mandate that a liquid solution be tested by independent labs, which called into question the accuracy of the test results.

The machine in question is not the roadside breath-testing machine that police use to initially take a DUI suspect into custody. The traditional blow-in-the-tube test is typically used only to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest by police on the street. On the other hand, the Intoxilyzer 5000EN is used at the police station in order to provide more definitive information as to a driver’s blood alcohol content level after his or her arrest.

According to the PA state police, suspending their use of the breath-testing machine is merely a temporary precaution in light of the Dauphin County judge’s rulings, which are currently on appeal. In the meantime, until the matter is resolved, the state police will transport drivers who are suspected of impairment or intoxication to a police facility or hospital in order to have their blood drawn to measure their blood alcohol content. Blood testing in Pennsylvania DUI cases is not a new phenomenon; police officers who arrest a driver suspected of DUI in many Philadelphia suburbs already use hospital blood testing instead of breath testing in order to definitively determine the driver’s blood alcohol content. Philadelphia city police reportedly utilize both blood and breathalyzer tests in DUI cases, and the Chester County District Attorney’s Office advised that all police departments that use breathalyzer tests also are trained to use blood-testing samples.

The fact of the matter is that blood testing actually is the most reliable and accurate method for measuring a person’s blood alcohol content. In recognizing the potential inaccuracies that may be associated with certain breathalyzer machines, the Dauphin County judge in this instance demanded that law enforcement authorities use the best and most reliable methods available to measure drivers’ blood alcohol content in instances of suspected DUI. Additionally, by using blood testing, law enforcement authorities theoretically may discover more drivers who are impaired by drugs, as only blood testing, not breath testing, can detect the presence of drugs in a driver’s system.

As this report illustrates, blood alcohol content testing can be fraught with inaccuracies, which makes it essential that anyone who is accused of DUI take all appropriate measures to question the evidence against him or her. If you or a loved one is accused of drunk driving, it is prudent to enlist the assistance of a Pennsylvania DUI lawyer to investigate and evaluate the evidence against you, including the results of any blood alcohol content testing, and use that information to build the best defense possible on your behalf. Call The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis for a free consultation: (215) 940-1200.