D.A. reviewing Philly DUI cases after breathalyzer error

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Police are responding after they were alerted that hundreds of DUI cases could be flawed because of an error with breathalyzer machines.

"Make no mistake about it, it was an oversight on the part of the individual that was testing," Philadelphia Police Lt. John Stanford told Action News Friday. "It was a human error."

Police say it's not that the machines were not reading properly. They say someone used an expired solution when testing the devices.

That liquid solution is used to determine the accuracy of blood alcohol readings. If it's outdated, it could produce inaccurate results.

"There could be virtually zero cases affected, because the machine was still calibrating properly," said Stanford. "So the only thing is that it gives attorneys in court a technicality to argue."

The mistake impacts cases from January 17 to June 29 of this year.

Attorney Joe Kelly discovered the error and believes it could impact 500 to 1,000 cases.

He says the breath test results in question should be tossed out.

"I am no physicist, but I think that would affect it," Kelly said. "If you use expired solution, the machine would be invalid, because that's violating regulations. The regulations say you have to have a valid solution."

Kelly says despite the mistake, a person could still be convicted. But the error could lead to a downgraded penalty or less jail time.

Police say they corrected the problem the same day they found out about it, and they will take measures to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"By no means is this going to automatically say that every case that was generated during the time frame was bad," said Stanford, "because, again, the machine itself is still reading accurately and calibrating."

The Philadelphia District Attorney's office has released a statement saying it is reviewing hundreds of cases and will take appropriate action if needed once the cases have been reviewed.
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.