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More than 1000 Drunk-Driving Cases May be Tossed for Defective Tests
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The drunk in San Francisco have a reason to raise the toast again: On Monday, the prosecutors and public defender’s office admitted that the way police had handled the devices for testing alcohol in blood could affect more than 1000 convictions. Public Defender Jeff Adachi is working with the prosecutors from the office of District Attorney George Gascon to identify guilty verdicts that may have to be nullified.

The devices are used to check whether a drunk driver’s blood alcohol is greater than 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit for intoxication while driving. However, before the devices are used they need to be properly processed and checked for accuracy. The manufacturer of the Alco-Sensor IV devices insisted that accuracy checks need to be conducted every 10 days, or after each 150 tests, against a gas canister which contains a constant alcohol level of 0.082 percent. The police did not follow the guidelines for ensuring accuracy of the devices in which suspects exhale and charges made upon the result.

When correct is incorrect


The matter came to notice when someone informed the attorneys in the public defender’s office that police logs of accuracy tests dating back to 2010 are all showing correct every time, which is impossible given the version of the manufacturer. In practice, at least some readings should have been incorrect. And considering the insistence in the guidelines of the manufacturer, incorrect readings on accuracy tests should have been quite a few. But police logs show there were no inaccurate readings in the last two years.

The Root is Deep

Adachi, the public defender, admitted that the problem seems to have begun in 2006 or earlier and that over the last six or seven years, more than one thousand people may have been wrongfully convicted of drunk driving. Adachi said, “It would be mathematically impossible for that to occur … The results that we have here plainly show that the accuracy testing was not being done.

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There’s some more fun

Some members of the police who empathized with the drunk discovered last month that the gas used in the testing of the machines had expired in September 2010. But accurate readings continued for two years after that without break.
However, officers insist that the alcohol meter is not the only test they use in San Francisco to determine drunk drivers, but they also ask them to walk straight, stand on one leg and touch a finger to the nose.

District Attorney to the rescue

The District Attorney, Gascon said that he believed it was “negligence as opposed to criminal misconduct.”

When the media asked him why checks were not properly done when he was police chief from 2009 to 2011, the District Attorney got visibly angry. He said, “I don’t know how many of you have run large organizations, but even within your own shop, if you know what your secretary is doing every day, I would like to hire you and find out what your secrets are.”

The District Attorney said that it was impossible either for him, or for the current or previous police chiefs to be aware of failure to follow procedure.


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