Intoxilyzer Inspector Lies–Thousands Possibly Wrongfully Convicted
By Collin County DWI Lawyer Troy P. Burleson
The State of Texas employs certified “inspectors” to maintain and testify about the scientific validity of the Intoxilyzer 5000. This is the machine used in Texas to test citizens’ alcohol concentration. These “inspectors” claim to be independent scientists who are just giving the facts about the breath test machine and its greatness. According to a recent report an inspector in Harris County, Texas is accused of falsifying maintenance reports and manipulating results of the Intoxilyzer. This could affect thousands of people who have been arrested, charged, and convicted of DWI in Texas.
People ask me all the time whether they should give a breath test if asked by an officer. My answer is “ABSOLUTELY NOT.” Not only is the Intoxilyzer widely criticized for its scientific accuracy but now it appears that the inspectors in charge of verifying the machines accuracy have been committing fraud and 1000s of citizens may have been wrongfully convicted.
According to a recent report from the Houston, Texas area, Deetrice Wallace has been charged with several felony counts of tampering with a government record for altering documents to make it look like she has done inspections on local Intoxilyzer machines when she in fact had not. Here is the report in its entirety:
By Katlynn Lanham The Facts
Published October 29, 2008
CLUTE – A contractor accused of not performing inspections on Breathalyzer devices that could imperil more than 2,600 drunken driving cases is scheduled to appear in a Houston court today.
Deetrice Wallace, 45, of Houston is charged with several counts of felony tampering with a government record and could face up to two years in jail if convicted of altering documents to make it look like she had done inspections of the breath machines at eight area cities, including Pearland and Clute.
“DPS and the Texas Rangers conducted an investigation, and after meeting with Wallace arrested her and filed charges,” said Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman with the Harris County district attorney’s office said.
Wallace is accused of making it appear she had done an inspection when she had not done a physical inspection at the site for about a year, Hawkins said.
Wallace was responsible for inspecting eight different police departments including Clute and Pearland, Hawkins said.
Texas Department of Public Safety is still examining the 2,600 driving while intoxicated cases that originated from the eight police departments where Wallace was supposed to inspect machines, a DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said.
Clute Police Chief Mark Wicker said 46 cases are affected at the Clute, Richwood and Freeport police departments because of the falsified records.
“We all share the Breathalyzer,” he said. “It was a shared venture.”
Wallace was an independent contractor employed by the individual police departments. To be qualified as a technical supervisor, she had to be certified by the DPS, Mange said.
“We aren’t sure if someone was sent to jail because the Breathalyzers were not calibrated,” she said. “We are still investigating.”
DPS has compiled a list of more than 600 cases in Pearland effected and just a few in Clute, Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne said. The district attorney’s office will send out a letter today to inform the people whose case this affects.
“I am not sure how many people will pursue a review of their conviction,” she said.
Yenne said she is not worried about the discovery affecting future cases involving Breathalyzer tests.
“Anything that involves humans can be questioned. I am concerned about the level people rely on science anyway,” she said. “I expect people to continue to use common sense.”
Wicker said DPS has taken possession of the department’s Breathalyzer and given it another one. DPS discovered the forgery while auditing, he said.
“If this is correct, she really did this, I have no sympathy for her,” Wicker said. “She messed up many of our cases.”
DPS’ Forensic Breath Alcohol Laboratory regulates the state’s breath alcohol testing program. The tests are used to determine the concentration of alcohol in a person’s breath, and are used in prosecution of alcohol-related offenses such as driving while intoxicated, Mange said.
Each breath test instrument must be inspected in person at least once a month, Mange said.
“Once DPS found reason to believe that these records had been altered, we suspended the supervisor’s certification and opened up a criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers. We will take other actions as appropriate,” said Col. Stan Clark, interim DPS director. “These are serious allegations and we will not tolerate any activities that call into question the integrity of the breath test system. I want to emphasize that DPS discovered these irregularities and took immediate action.”
This report comes on the heels of our former post about a similar case from Washington State. Understand what is happening. These state-paid inspectors are falsifying inspections reports and then testifying that the Intoxilyzer was in proper working condition, based on the faulty inspections, in order to convict citizens. It is no wonder that lab error is the number 2 casue of wrongful convictions in Texas. This is not the way justice is supposed to work. The state is counting on jury members to say, “The state built it so it must work” or “If it is a government machine that says a person is guilty than I MUST vote guilty.”
I can only hope cases like these finally convince the State to do away with these faulty machines and junk science and stop convicting people on lies.