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D.C. Police Investigate Shoddy Breathalyzers

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By Peter Granitz

D.C. Police are investigating the accuracy of its own breathalyzer tests. An internal report shows that the department may have been using faulty machines.

The Intoxilyzer 5000 relies on computer-based algorithms to judge a driver's sobriety. DUI Defense attorney David Benowitz says that as many as eight of the ten devices D.C. police were using miscalculated people's blood alcohol levels.

He says four of his cases this week were dropped because of the investigation, and although little is known about precisely how defective the machines were, he expects a groundswell of new legal cases.

"If someone's score comes up as a .2, when in actuality it was a .05, which does not constitute driving while intoxicated, I don't think you can say they were convicted rightfully," says Benowitz. "You just don't know."

A spokesman for the D.C. police would not comment because the department has not released an official finding yet. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says the units have been pulled.


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