Fife Luneau Case Featured in NYT Story About Breath Tests

One of our firm’s most prominent cases is being featured in a New York Times article, “These Machines Can Put You in Jail. Don’t Trust Them.” and Episode 18: “Guilty by Machine” of The Times’ half-hour TV show called, “The Weekly” on FX and Hulu.

The months-long New York Times investigation discovered alcohol breath tests are often unreliable due to human error (calibration and maintenance issues), lack of government oversight, and programming errors with the devices themselves. In recent years, courts throughout the United States have thrown out over 50,000 of these breath test results due to these issues.

In June 2017, Attorney Danny Luneau of Fife Luneau, P.C. helped our client get his DUI case dismissed after Gilpin County Judge David Taylor ruled the certificate attesting the proper functionality of the breathalyzer device—known as the Intoxilyzer 9000—was not admissible, calling over 18 months’ worth of results from dozens of other DUI cases into question. The device that determined our client’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was certified from March 17, 2016, to March 17, 2017; however, the certificate was signed by Dr. Laura Gillam-Ross, who left the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) in July 2015. Program director Jeff Groff said the health department know the signature change required a software update—but elected to wait until a larger software upgrade was needed.

Additionally, the CDPHE laboratory services division had rushed to get these machines up and running throughout the state by faking lab records to show that dozens of these devices were calibrated—without ever being touched. Each machine required known alcohol concentrations to be used as samples for calibration, which can take an hour or so for each device. Yet, not only did lab workers fake the records, but the lab’s supervisors also sped up this process by enlisting the help of a lawyer, sales manager, and intern—all individuals who lacked any technical experience—to certify more than 160 new Intoxilyzer 9000s.

Lastly, Michael Barnhill, a lab technician, testified that his manager ordered him to destroy our client’s records from those tests and even the manual for the device, in the event our legal team wanted to subpoena the evidence. Not only did the judge find the test results to be inadmissible because of deceptive and forged signatures, but also determined our client’s due process rights had been violated.

In other states, Massachusetts recently deemed every breath test for the past eight years to be inadmissible, throwing out over 28,000 cases that resulted in convictions based on flawed tests. New Jersey courts found that more than 13,000 drivers were convicted because of flawed tests.

If you have been charged with a DUI in Colorado and you believe the post-arrest breath test results were inaccurate, contact our Denver legal team today at (720) 408-7130 and schedule a free consultation.

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