Like Minnesota and a disturbing number of other states, Michigan faces problems with the breathalyzers it uses during drunk-driving stops. This January, the state stopped a $1.3 million-a-year contract with the company that watches its breathalyzer machines for accuracy.
Police, courts and the public generally trusted breathalyzer results without question, until recently. Now, in one story after another across the country, the machines appear to be falling short.
Possible criminal fraud spotted in breathalyzers
Michigan State Police (MSP) announced it is “aggressively investigating potential fraud committed by contract employees” of Intoximeter, the company that inspects its breathalyzers.
In early January, the police saw signs in the company’s documents that its employees had “falsified” and “fabricated” inspection records. The police pointed to “a possible criminal act.”
At last report, MSP does not know how long it will take to grapple with the problem, but it “recommends that police agencies utilize blood draws rather than breath tests to establish evidence of drunk driving.”
Minnesota joins nationwide breathalyzer problem
Minnesota has experienced problems with breathalyzers of the same brand since at least 2012. The New York Times recently published a long investigative of the technical and legal problems breathalyzers face in Minnesota and nationwide.
According to 2012 testimony, Minnesota officials reacted to breakdowns of quality-control features of the state’s machines by simply turning those features off. In 2018, a Hennepin County ruled the state’s machines were rounding up the breath alcohol levels of suspects, nudging their results up to levels that in some cases resulted in arrests or more serious charges.