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Colorado judge on breathalyzer certification snafu: "misleading"

Colorado readers who peruse our posts with some regularity might have had a strong premonition after consideration of an entry we wrote earlier this spring regarding a botched office process relevant to the charging and conviction of alleged inebriated drivers in the state.

As we noted in our March 22 post, a state official must certify in writing that breathalyzers used in drunk-driving stops are accurate and properly calibrated.

An official's signature duly attested to that.

There was just one problem, though: Her name affixed on many breathalyzers that played a role in DUI convictions was forged. And it continued to appear on certificates nearly two years after she resigned from her position.

Oh, here's that premonition: The courts are going to be weighing in on this, for sure.

In fact, one state judge just has, with the ruling he issued in a recent DUI case chastising state officials and holding that the forged signature on a breathalyzer featuring in a case before him was not admissible in court.

The judge didn't mince words.

"Due process cannot survive," he wrote, "if false evidence …is admitted in an effort to deprive a person of freedom."

Notwithstanding the ire evident in the judge's ruling, he stated that he was loath to throw out DUI cases before him based on just the forged certificates alone. Breathalyzer evidence might still be admissible, he wrote, if he could be convinced of its proper functioning "through other means."

The state's decision "to consciously disregard truth," though (officials knew of the forgeries, and were withholding a fix pending upgraded software), was deeply troubling, he stated. Evidence that is "something other than the truth" can never be admissible, he wrote.

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