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The Problem with Columbus’ New Mobile DUI Breathalyzer Vehicle

Posted On: April 7th, 2023   |   Posted by: Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
Police handing driver a breathalyzer

The Columbus Police Department has a new tool to target drunk drivers in central Ohio—a vehicle called the DUI Interceptor. The van is outfitted with a mobile DUI breathalyzer unit. While the DUI Interceptor may address challenges police officers previously had with DUI traffic stops, the new program has problems that should be addressed.

The Pros of the Mobile DUI Testing Lab

In 2021, 50% of the fatal crashes in Ohio involved at least one intoxicated driver. Approximately three out of every 100,000 residents in Ohio were killed in drunk driving accidents. Additionally, for every 100,000 licensed drivers in Ohio, almost 150 people received a DUI in 2021. These numbers are astounding, and the Columbus Police Department set out to change things with the DUI Interceptor vehicle.

The Mobile Lab Makes DUI Testing More Accessible

One of the main purposes of the DUI Interceptor van is to make DUI testing more accessible to police. It allows officers to conduct certified breathalyzer tests on the side of the road instead of taking a suspect back to the police station for testing. This can improve the timeliness of DUI tests.

The Technology May Help Prevent Drunk Driving Accidents

Knowing that the DUI Interceptor is out there, the Columbus Police Department hopes it will prevent people from driving while intoxicated. The side of the vehicle is emblazoned with the tagline, “Going out tonight? So are we.” This is not a challenge but a notice: people are more likely to get caught drinking and driving now.

The Mobile Lab Streamlines DUI Investigations and Court Cases

Many DUI investigations and court cases are thwarted by the untimeliness of DUI tests. After hours of waiting to take a breathalyzer, their accuracy drops. The mobile DUI Interceptor vehicle would streamline evidence collection in cases, allowing prosecutors to rely more heavily on breathalyzers.

The Problem with Mobile DUI Testing

While the DUI Interceptor has potential benefits, there are apparent problems associated with DUI testing and the entire program.

Potential for Errors in the Testing Process

Like any other DUI test, the DUI Interceptor breathalyzers have a potential for errors. Since these vans have only been operating since St. Patrick’s Day 2023, they have yet to be challenged in court.

However, traditional breathalyzers are notoriously inaccurate. The mobile breathalyzers would likely need additional maintenance and servicing, making it likely that they will be prone to false results as well.

Various Factors Can Affect Test Accuracy

Breathalyzer tests are controversial because many factors can affect their accuracy. For example, the weather, environment, timing, and certain medications can cause false results. The DUI Interceptor will have this same challenge.

Inaccurate Tests Lead to False Arrests and Convictions

Inaccurate breathalyzer tests taken in the DUI Interceptor may lead to false arrests and, ultimately, wrongful DUI convictions. Since prosecutors rely so heavily on breathalyzers, they will likely lack other evidence.

The court might even add greater weight to these tests because they are taken faster. An experienced DUI lawyer must challenge breathalyzer test results to ensure their client does not have the book thrown at them.

Do Drivers Have to Comply with Mobile Tests?

When you’re pulled over by a cop who suspects you’re intoxicated, they may request you take several tests. Standard field sobriety tests (FSTs) include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand tests. You must know these tests are not mandatory. You can refuse them.

However, the breathalyzer test is different. If you have an Ohio driver’s license to drive on Ohio roads, you have implied consent to take the test. You can technically refuse the breathalyzer, but officers will likely still arrest you and suspend your license. The prosecution will just lack the formal test result to use as evidence.

Possible Solutions to Address Concerns

Some of the possible solutions to the challenges facing mobile DUI testing include:

  • More frequent calibration of breathalyzers
  • Proper training of officers
  • Certified technicians taking tests
  • Regular maintenance of equipment

Additionally, lawmakers should reconsider current statutes requiring breathalyzer tests. People who take certain medications or have a medical condition such as diabetes may produce inaccurate results. These people and others should be able to refuse breathalyzers with good cause.

Contact a DUI Lawyer If You’re Charged with Drunk Driving

While the DUI Interceptor may benefit the Columbus community, we should be critical of this mobile DUI testing technology. There are many potential challenges. There is a need for continued improvement and oversight of DUI testing like breathalyzers.

If you’re charged with a DUI anywhere in Columbus, Ohio, you should immediately contact a drunk driving lawyer. Luftman, Heck & Associates has a team of attorneys ready to listen to your story and provide solid guidance. Call us today at (614) 500-3836 to schedule a free consultation.

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