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Breath tests for blood alcohol level should engender no confidence

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Image from National Institute of Standards & Technology.

A silver lining in the District of Columbia’s breathalyzer debacle  is that it may further convince judges and jurors that breathalyzers amount to junk science, or else that their results are highly unreliable, due to unreliability of the machinery, and by the fallibility and sometimes carelessness of humans that maintain and operate them. 

I have worked for several years with two Intoxilyzer and Intoximeter experts who confirm that blood testing is more reliable than breath testing to accurately determine one’s blood alcohol level at the time of testing. Of course, the blood alcohol level at the time of driving could be lower or higher than at the time of testing, depending on whether the alcohol absorption process is continuing upward, or if the alcohol dissipation process has already begun.

Here are memos —- no doubt heavily reviewed and vetted in advance by D.C. government lawyers to reduce legal liability for what is said, and to minimize legal liability for not saying enough — from D.C. Deputy Attorney General Robert J. Hildum  (June 4, 2010) and from Alexander Pope and Darryl Priestly of the D.C. police (April 1, 2010, and not an April Fool’s joke). Thanks to a colleague for forwarding me these documents, which were also provided to me recently by a D.C. assistant attorney general.