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The Colorado Case of Concealed… Portable Breath Testers?

In the Times investigation on alcohol breath tests, the example of a Mr. Friedlander in Colorado shows the culpability of state breath-testing devices.

This article is part of a 4-part series on breathalyzers. For the first article, read “Don’t Trust the Breathalyzers." Find the original Times article here: “These Machines Can Put You in Jail. Don’t Trust Them.”

In the latest Times report on alcohol breath tests, the Dräger Alcotest 9510 and similar breathalyzer devices were discovered to be producing inflated test results.

Interviewing over 100 lawyers, police officers, and industry professions on the issue of alcohol breath tests, their investigation reveals a dirty truth: breath-testing devices, a linchpin of the criminal justice system, are not to be trusted.


The Case of the Portable Breath Tester

Today, we look at the case of Robert Friedlander, a Colorado citizen who took an erroneous conviction of impaired driving into his own hands.

On May 30, 2016, Mr. Friedlander was pulled over by a Colorado State Patrol Officer for swerving. That night, he blew a 0.07 at the station — which, although too low to be charged with drunk driving in Colorado, was enough to be charged with impaired driving. Mr. Friedlander contested this charge.

Having carried around a small portable breath tester on his person for some time now, Mr. Friedlander believed that his case did not qualify as one of impaired driving. He had been drinking at the Ameristar casino that night, yes, but he had been careful enough to test himself with his portable device and then wait an hour at the casino to sober up from his test results (0.05) before driving back home.

Challenging the impaired driving charge against him, this foresight on the part of Mr. Friedlander uncovered ugly truths about the Colorado forensic lab and its processing of the state breathalyzers, the Intoxilyzer 9000.

Prosecutions revealed the following truth: more than three years before Mr. Friedlander was accused of impaired driving with a breath test of 0.07, the Colorado lab that created the state breathalyzers was rushing its order.

In its haste to meet a deadline, the lab faked records to prove that it had calibrated dozens of instruments, which it did not. To further speed things along, the lab’s supervisor recruited the help of non-trained assistants, including an intern and a sales manager.

To make matters worse, the lab was found to be using its former science director’s digital signature on official documentation verifying the reliability of the Intoxilyzer, despite the fact that she no longer worked there.

Because breath-testing devices are not ready out of the box but require careful calibration — which may take an hour or more per machine — to make them operational, the lab was clearly at fault. It rushed the order, distributing many breathalyzers that produce skewed results.

In the example of Mr. Friedlander and his charge of impaired driving, the story has a (relatively) happy ending: the judge in Mr. Friedlander’s case deemed his test inadmissible, and Mr. Friedlander was able to change his conviction of impaired driving to the lesser charge of reckless driving.

More importantly, Mr. Friedlander’s case provoked an investigation into Colorado’s drunk-driving enforcement, spurring defense lawyers in Colorado to successfully challenge and throw out state breath test results in dozens of other cases.


The Case For Portable Breath Testers

Had Mr. Friedlander not checked his impairment on his own prior to the conviction, he wouldn’t have known that the state breathalyzer he blew into was faulty.

But by carrying a personal alcohol-testing device with him at all times, Mr. Friedlander placed the power back into his hands and helped fuel an investigation on drunk-driving enforcement via breathalyzers.

While the Times report never stated which portable breath-testing device Mr. Friedlander had on his person, we believe that Otorize presents a simple solution to your portable alcohol-testing device needs.

Checking your impairment on a mobile device, you can have results in less than a minute, leaving you with enough time to sober up or arrange for transportation. As the first scientifically proven cognitive impairment test, Otorize is easy to use for your own self-regulation.

You can download Otorize on the Google Play Store (coming soon to the App Store!) or learn more about it here. Otorize is free to the public.

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