The fail-safe method for Ontario police forces to determine blood-alcohol levels may be flawed.
A man charged with the over-80 law (80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 mg of blood) was acquitted in a recent Brampton court case, after a key witness testified that the breathalyzer device used is faulty.
“I think this has important systemic implications,” said defence attorney Richard Posner.
“There was absolutely no documentation that anything had ever been done by the police, who are tasked with maintaining the instrument, nothing done to correct or rectify these unusual results.”
The ‘Intoxilyzer 8000C’ machine used in the case was tested by Ben Joseph, an expert witness and former government scientist with the Centre of Forensic Sciences, after it was suggested in court that there was no “uncertainty of measurement.”
Joseph said data was retrieved from the breath-testing device that indicated inaccurate readings and malfunctions that weren’t properly recorded.
“Those machines are generally considered to be reliable instruments if maintained and if used in accordance with the manufacturers instructions and the officer’s training,” said lawyer Terry Hawton, who is not connected to the case.
“It’s considered to be almost infallible by some judges and most police officers.”
Any doubt cast over the reliability of the instruments could force police throughout the province to review practices. The Crown has filed an appeal in this case.
With files from Mark McAllister