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Breathalyzer tests temporary suspended by PA state police

This week we wanted to follow up on a prior post where a Dauphin County judge dismissed several DUI cases due to concerns over the breathalyzer machine used to measure a driver's blood alcohol levels. Essentially, the Intoxilyzer 5000EN, the machine used in the cases, had not been independently tested to ensure accuracy.

The ruling was suspected to affect drunk driving cases throughout the state.

They Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that the Pennsylvania State Police have stopped using the machine on a temporary basis. A spokesman explained that while the case is being appealed, the agency has decided to not use the machine. Instead, drivers arrested on suspicion of DUI will be taken to a facility to have blood drawn.

The police also explained that they will continue to use hand-held breathalyzers and roadside sobriety tests to establish probable cause for arrests. However, once arrested, it remains to be seen whether drivers will submit directly to blood tests. Drivers have an option of taking breath, urine or blood tests.

Also, with the U.S. Supreme Court considering compulsory blood draws without a warrant, the specter of improper intrusion may factor into whether authorities will require blood tests.

Nevertheless, a defense lawyer explained to the Inquirer noted that many suburban police agencies currently rely on blood tests to substantiate DUI cases; most notably because they are more reliable and accurate than breath tests.

In the meantime, district attorneys and defense lawyers across the state are gearing up for how the appellate ruling may affect future cases.

Source: Philly.com, Pa. state police suspend breath tests in DUI cases, January 31, 2013

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