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D.C. Reinforces Drunk Driving Laws

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New legislation would smooth the way for the use of breathalyzer tests as evidence in drunk driving cases.
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New legislation would smooth the way for the use of breathalyzer tests as evidence in drunk driving cases.

More than two years after D.C. had to suspend its breathalyzer program because of faulty machines, the city's breath-test program is now up and running, and lawmakers continue to take steps to combat drunken driving.

Mayor Gray signed into law two bills that he says will make the streets safer from impaired drivers. One of the laws allows D.C. to require that some convicted drunk drivers use ignition interlock devices to operate their vehicles.

The other one paves the way for prosecutors to use test results from D.C.'s re-started breathalyzer program as admissible evidence in court cases.

More than two years ago, the city's police department had to shut down the breathalyzer program when it was discovered the blood-alcohol testing machines were incorrectly calibrated, calling into question hundreds of drunken driving convictions. The city ended up paying $20,000 to several drivers who sued the city.

Last fall, the city resumed the program with new equipment and the council also passed legislation enacting tougher penalties for drunk drivers.

Mayor Gray says the new laws will give authorities even more tools to prevent impaired driving. So far, 31 officers have certified to operate the new breathalyzers and about 200 tests have been conducted on drivers.

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