Pennsylvania State Police suspend use of breathalyzer testing

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Pennsylvania State Police are now using blood rather than breath testing to catch DUI offenders.

It all started in December when a Dauphin County judge ruled breathalyzer machines could not be considered accurate beyond a .15 reading.

“You had to calibrate these machines at .05 percent, .1 percent, and .15 percent alcohol. When you’re talking about a threshold of .16 percent, because there’s no calibration at .16 or above, you have to err on the lowest side based on scientific principles,” said Fran Chardo, Dauphin County First Assistant DA.

The ruling led to the dismissal of breathalyzer evidence in about 20 DUI cases in Dauphin County. On Wednesday, the Dauphin County DA’s office asked the state Superior Court to overturn the county judge’s ruling. If the Superior Court upholds it, it could void breathalyzer evidence in pending DUI cases across the state.

“This has implications and we wouldn’t have contested the motion if we didn’t think we were right,” Chardo said.

In the meantime, state troopers and all officers in Dauphin County are only using blood tests on suspected drunk drivers.

“The trooper just takes you from the scene to the hospital, you give blood, goes to a lab, and it comes back in three weeks,” said Trooper Rob Hicks of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Although the blood testing may take longer, it also detects when people are under the influence of drugs. State Police and Dauphin County plan to use this system until the Superior Court comes back with a ruling.

“The Superior Court decision would be binding, unless it was reversed by the Supreme Court, on all counties. So we’re going to have the Superior Court decide this issue,” Chardo said.

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