Breath Tests to Resume in DC

D.C. is resuming breath testingfor suspected drunk drivers, ending a 19-month suspension of the program. In 2010, the District admitted that nearly 400 people were convicted with drunk driving based on inaccurate results from breath machines. Half of those convicted went to jail.$20,000 was paid to four people who challenged their cases in May. D.C. claimed to have reached deals in order to save time and continued litigation. Nearly 30 people filed lawsuits against the District who were charged with DWI.While the suspension of breath testing was on hiatus, the city continued to use field sobriety tests and urine screens for evidence of drivers’ intoxication levels, allowing the police to arrest hundreds of drivers.

The Breath Alcohol Testing Program will now require a trained Metropolitan Police Department operator to administer the tests. Mayor Vince Gray said that a grant for $150,000 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration helped reinstate the program.

The chief medical examiner’s office is now in charge of ensuring that the breath machines are working accurately through calibration and auditing.

The Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act of 2012 began Aug. 1, and under the law tougher penalties are imposed on first-time offenders, and more severe penalties are being given to repeat offenders.