PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — You’ve had a big night out and find yourself inching along with a sobriety checkpoint straight ahead.
But if Pennsylvania State Police are doing the testing, troopers will only be using blood sampling, no breathalyzers.
State Police are temporarily suspending breathalyzer tests until the Superior Court rules on questions about the accuracy of those tests.
“They’re pretty accurate most of the time.” says David Shrager, an attorney. “You heard me say most of the time. That leaves a lot of times when they’re inaccurate.”
Shrager represents a lot of suspected DUI cases.
“You’re talking about people’s freedoms and people’s rights and they’re taken away in situations when they’re inaccurate.”
State Police don’t see the suspension of breathalyzer use affecting them that much.
“In the majority of our cases blood is drawn versus someone having to take a breathalyzer,” says Trooper Robin Mungo, of Pennsylvania State Police.
Under current law, police have two hours to have blood drawn from suspected DUI drivers.
“At a checkpoint, there’ll be someone there that can draw their blood,” said Trooper Mungo.
Otherwise, police will take DUI suspects to a hospital.
Since breathalyzers test only for alcohol, some think more blood tests will lead to more DUI arrests because suspects can be screened for illegal drugs like cocaine, marijuana and other substances.
“If someone’s taking prescription medication and taking more than the appropriate dose,” says Shrager, “that can also impair their abilities.”
Getting results of those blood tests in DUI cases will take a lot longer.
Pittsburgh police will continue to use Breathalyzer results, at least for now.
But Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala has been looking into questions about their accuracy with police and crime labs. He is expected to weigh in on the subject next week.
Shrager concludes, “It’s important that we come to terms and realize what the accuracy of the machines are and the appropriateness of their use.”