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Forged certification of breath-test machines reinforces the inexact science of measuring blood alcohol content

News out of Colorado regarding forged signatures on the certification of more than 100 breath-test machines used to convict motorists of drunk driving is a reminder to drivers in Indiana and nationwide that it is always wise to speak with an experienced attorney after a drunk driving arrest.

According to a recent Denver Post report, a former electronics specialist in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment raised concerns about the validity of certifications for more than 100 Intoxilyzer 9000 breathalyzer machines. The technician, Mike Barnhill, says in 2013, his supervisor told three people who were not technicians (two of them were not even state employees) to calibrate and validate the machines, and then sign Barnhill's name on the certification forms.

In addition, a former Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment laboratory director's signature is still being used on some certificates more than a year after she left the laboratory in July 2015.

The breath-test machines are used to test the blood-alcohol content (BAC) of every suspected drunken driver in Colorado. There are 200 machines in use at 165 law enforcement agencies across the state.

Indiana Uses A Similar Certification System

According to an Indiana government website, the Indiana State Department of Toxicology (ISDT) has 206 breath test instruments "strategically located" throughout the state. These instruments are inspected, serviced and certified by ISDT breath-test inspectors.

Certification of a machine means it has been calibrated, tested and validated by ISDT. Indiana law requires that a person authorized by the Department of Toxicology inspect each breath test instrument at the instrument's established location at least once every 180 days. Any person certified as a breath test operator must be recertified by examination at least every two years from the month of certification or re-certification.

While no one is suggesting that fraud along the lines of what allegedly occurred in Colorado has occurred in Indiana, there is a longstanding dispute within the legal community as to the accuracy of the breath-test machines used by Indiana law enforcement authorities.

A conviction in Indiana of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVWI) can seriously disrupt your professional and personal life. It is critical to work with an experienced OVWI defense attorney like John L. Tompkins, who will review the facts of your case and work to minimize the penalties or have the case dismissed completely.

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