Hundreds of DUI convictions, including license suspensions may go back to court or be over-turned completely. Defense attorneys and several counties’ states attorney’s from across Vermont are looking at cases from 2008 to present date that may be thrown out. Human error and oversight in setting up and maintenance of breath analysis machines has been identified as the cause.
Results of DUI tests from a DataMaster DMT breath analysis machine at the Vermont State Police station are now under microscopic scrutiny. The state Department of Health was in charge of maintenance and calibration of the breathalyzer machines used in the police stations.
Recently, a Vermont defense attorney obtained letters of complaint that were written by two lab technicians last year; alleging sloppy and unethical work, as well as, equipment tampering, by a fellow technician. Despite numerous complaints to their supervisor, no action was taken to correct the situation.
In another county, state Department of Health technicians failed to activate a ‘self-check’ function on one of the machines before it began being used at the police station in Royalton. Defense attorneys in several Vermont counties have been sending notification letters to those whose cases would be affected by the recent findings.
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Additionally, many cases that are in the system pending trial may be affected as well. The state health commissioner contends that the DataMaster equipment is sophisticated enough that it will give an accurate reading, regardless if the ‘self-check’ switch is on or not.
The fact that the state Health Department had knowledge of actual equipment failures and inadequate records and documentation, but did not report it to the states attorney office is troubling; they had an obligation to report this, and failed to do so.
The full extent of damage suffered by some of these drivers, who were convicted by information from the faulty machines, is not yet known. However, attorneys are looking into numerous cases to make sure everyone that may have been affected, will get notification, and the opportunity for a retrial or dismissal.