CORUNNA — Local officials say, fortunately, the recent controversy over Michigan State Police breathalyzer machines not being calibrated, or such records being falsified by the company contracted to perform the service, has not had any effect in Shiawassee County.
“No cases in Shiawassee County have been affected by it, since police in the county have been doing blood draws for suspected impaired drivers anyway,” Prosecutor Deana Finnegan said. “I was grousing about it costing $17 to do it every time, but now I’m glad we did it.”
Michigan State Police said this month said they had halted the use of more than 200 DataMaster breathalyzer machines across the state after questions arose about reliability.
“The company that we rely on to certify the machines and do calibrations every 180 days, they weren’t doing it and apparently were falsifying records,” Finnegan said.
The units are used to determine the blood-alcohol content (BAC) of suspected impaired drivers while they are being booked, and after they have performed a portable roadside test. Those roadside tests, however, are inadmissible in court.
Intoximeters Inc., of St. Louis, Missouri, had a nearly $1.3-million contract with MSP to calibrate the machines every 180 days, but that has since been canceled. The company had been under contract with MSP for more than 20 years before the recent controversy, and in 2018 signed a three-year extension to perform the service.
Intoximeter employees have recently been accused of falsifying maintenance and calibration records, and MSP is currently conducting a criminal investigation into those allegations. The remaining machines used by MSP should be returned to working order by the end of February. In the meantime, MSP has indicated blood draws should be used for impaired drving tests.
The irregularities in maintenance and calibration were found at the following locations: Alpena County Sheriff’s Office, Beverly Hills Police Dept., Detroit Detention Center, Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office, Niles Law Enforcement Center, Pittsfield Twp. Police Dept., Tecumseh Police Dept. and the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office.
Defense attorneys across the state have called into question pending OWI cases, and more than 50 cases across the state have been dismissed thus far due to unreliable test results.
So far, approximately 40 of the machines have been re-calibrated by MSP and returned to service.
Shiawassee County does have a DataMaster, but was not using it, Finnegan said. Deputies and other officers do carry portable breath detection units, however, those results must be confirmed either by a blood draw or breath test on a non-portable unit.