DETROIT (AP) — Michigan State Police has suspended the contract with the company that issues the state’s breath alcohol testing devices amid concerns the results could be flawed.
In a letter written to police and prosecutors statewide, state police officials warned law enforcement agencies about “performance-related issues” with the Datamaster DMT breathalyzer devices, according to The Detroit News. Such issues could affect drunken driving cases.
The letter did not identify the problems or how they were uncovered.
State police Lt. Michael Shaw said a stop order was immediately issued as soon as they “noticed some issues with the vendor that was responsible for maintenance and auditing the DataMasters around the state.”
A phone call to the vendor, Intoximeters Inc., of St. Louis, was not returned Saturday.
“We will be (setting) up a unit in order to assume the responsibilities of that vendor,” Shaw said. “Authorities will keep using the devices, but Michigan State Police, not the vendor, will calibrate them,” Shaw said.
State police will also take over the contractor’s duties of certifying and serving the breathalyzer units.
Oakland University criminal justice professor Daniel Kennedy said such issues with the breathalyzer devices could be troublesome for drunken driving cases in Michigan.
“This could open the floodgates for appeals,” Kennedy said. “In drunk driving cases, one of the first questions any defense attorney asks is, ‘When was the last time the device was calibrated?’ So, if they found problems with how these things were being calibrated, that could wind up being one big mess.”
Maj. Greg Zarotney of the Michigan State Police Office of Professional Development wrote in the letter that prosecutors with any cases that could have been impacted by the company’s errors have already been notified and if any additional errors are found, a report will be immediately forwarded to the affected prosecutor.
East Lansing attorney Michael J. Nichols, who specializes in drunken driving cases, said he doesn’t know quite what to make of the situation.
He says the DataMaster is only part of the evaluation of a person’s sobriety, but it cannot be fully relied on as proof of how much alcohol is in someone’s system.
“Depending on exactly what the errors were and how pervasive they were, I think this could have a huge potential impact,” he said. “I’m a little suspicious about why they sent out this letter. The state is being transparent, and they never do that unless there’s more to it.”