STAFF EDITORIAL: Accuracy of alcohol breath tests is necessary

Staff Editorial

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An investigation by The New York Times published Sunday revealed shocking findings about the credibility and accuracy of alcohol breath test machines across the U.S.

Tens of thousands of court cases involving alcohol breath tests have already been thrown out nationwide, in some cases faulty machines were showing results that indicated figures 40 percent higher than real numbers.

The New York Times reported that many testing machines were deemed unreliable but still used anyway by police officers and used in convicting people of drunk driving offenses, sometimes ending in jail time.

We at The Daily Eastern News find this report to not only be incredibly shocking and disheartening, but believe its importance to be of the highest urgency, and feel that all of our local police forces, including the Charleston, Mattoon and Coles County Sheriffs, should be aware of its findings and look into the reliability of its own testing devices.

The problem The New York Times outlined is one that is quite pervasive and one that did not just affect a small handful of people. Between just Massachusetts and New Jersey, 42,000 drunk driving convictions could be thrown out because of questions regarding the reliability of the machines used in the cases.

We at The Daily Eastern News of course do not condone driving under the influence in any way and believe those who are properly found guilty of that crime should be punished as its danger and damage in society is crippling. But we do, however, feel that the machines used in the convictions need to come under serious scrutiny from law enforcement agencies all over the country, including ours in the Eastern community.

Our hope is that our local law enforcement’s machines do function properly and that this issue will not be prevalent in Coles County, but at the very least, it needs to be looked into.

There are few crimes greater than the guilty conviction of an innocent person, and if these machines can lead to that, than the issue needs to be addressed with the utmost importance.

DUI incidents should be punished, and we strongly encourage everyone to not get behind the wheel of car while under the influence. But clearly there are issues with how convictions of this crime come to be and in a nation where everyone is innocent until evidence proves them guilty, we need to make sure that all of the evidence, especially those given by the machines, is 100 percent accurate, 100 percent of the time.

The Editorial Staff can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].