Friday, June 21, 2024

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Missouri DWI Lab Testing is Weak on Standards

In Missouri driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases, police officers are required to follow certain standards. Standards are in place in an attempt to bring some degree of scientific certainty to testing procedures. Breath testing machines have been subject to weak oversight regarding testing standards. The result can be wrongful convictions.

The Missouri Code of State Regulations (19 CSR 25-30) specifies the standards that should be followed when testing the accuracy of breath testing devices. If the standards are not followed, no scientific accuracy can be presumed. The maintenance report, including instructions, are included in chapter 30. Lets examine the AlcoSensor IV (ASIV).

The ASIV maintenance report requires that the temperature of the ASIV be recorded when running an accuracy check. The form requires that a checkmark be placed by each item if found to be satisfactory or if within established limits. Further, an observed value is to be written in where determined.

What does that mean? In layman’s terms it means that you have to fill out the whole form and do it correctly. This includes recording a temperature on the maintenance report if it is observed. It must be entered following the appropriate checkbox near the top of the checklist. The judges, traffic commissioners, and hearing officers who review DWI cases have routinely overlooked improperly completed maintenance reports. They have not enforced the requirement that a temperature be recorded on the form if a checkmark exists. The law requires that observed values must be recorded and written-in where determined. To overlook this requirement is simply not good enough. Is it good enough for government work? Is it good enough for others? It is probably not good enough for anyone if their freedom is on the line. It is a poor state of affairs when procedures applying scientific checks are overlooked in the legal system. There is too much risk of getting it wrong.  We need to do everything we can to “get it right”.

The ASIV maintenance report temperature readings are part of the required checks essential to a machine passing its maintenance test. This issue will be ruled on soon in St. Louis County. Scientific certainty is only obtained when standards are followed precisely. Procedures must be replicated with exactness.  In order to prevent wrongful convictions and wrongful drivers license suspensions, courts must hold law enforcement accountable. Standards and procedures must be upheld fully and completely with regard to breath alcohol devices.

-John Schleiffarth


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