'It’s pretty bad,’ -- Unknown breathalyzer flaw could impact MSP drunk driving cases

'It’s pretty bad,’ -- Unknown breathalyzer flaw could impact MSP drunk driving cases
'It’s pretty bad,’ -- Unknown breathalyzer flaw could impact MSP drunk driving cases

Michigan State Police uncovered an issue with the breathalyzers used by many departments that could affect drunk driving cases in the state.

MSP ended a relationship with a breathalyzer vendor that has been ongoing for more than 20 years, but officials won’t say why.

“It wasn’t just one person that just got fired, it was an entire company," Local 4 legal expert Neil Rockind said. “An entire contract got canceled.”

Residents are wondering about the accuracy of the state’s use of breathalyzers.

“What we now know is that there are clearly not just rumors or innuendos or speculation, or the occasional case where something isn’t done right,” Rockind said. “It appears to be more systemic that is involved or that is underlying or undermining the reliability of the breath test.”

For more than 20 years, MSP has relied on an unnamed company for routine maintenance, service calls and overall calibration of breathalyzers -- that relationship came to an end Jan. 7 due to “performance related issues.”

Rockind said there’s no information on what those issues could be.

“We don’t exactly know fully what it is," Rockind said. “What we can say about it is that it’s pretty bad.”

It potentially opens to the door for a lot of legal issues. MSP said that those affected have been notified, but out of caution, the state will be looking into all legal cases that have used breathalyzers. It’s unknown how far back or in-depth the look back will be.

“We don’t know what police departments. We don’t know what units. We don’t know whether it’s 1, 5, or 10," Rockind said. "I know the letter from the state police wants to create the impression that we’re right at the end of this thing and I don’t know if anyone’s prepared to accept that.”

Local 4 was told the state is still making use of the breathalyzer, but, as of right now, they’ve assumed the responsibility of maintenance, calibration and more.

About the Authors:

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.