Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ignition Interlock and False Positive Alcohol Readings

I recently defended a violation of probation case for drunk driving.  As part of the probation my client was ordered to enroll in the ignition interlock program.

My client was doing fine on the ignition interlock program for almost 3 years until one dayhe became very ill.  He was ill all day vomiting on frequent occasions.

Unfortunately he needed to go out for a little while to run an errand.shortly before the air and he had thrown up.  After throwing up he drink some orange juice to clean the taste out of his mouth.

When he started the car he needed to blow into the ignition interlock.  It registered .028  blood-alcohol content. The car would not start.  He waited 5 min. and gave another breath sample and this time it was .019 blood-alcohol content.The car started and he was on his way.

One of the functions of ignition interlock is that the device on the car reports all activity to the ignition interlock people.  The ignition interlock company reports the activity to the probation agent.  The probation agent received the report of the interlock device.

Based on this report the agent filed a petition for violation of probation. My client was facing 60 days in jail.

My client advised that he had not been drinking since she had been put on probation.  He was living a clean and sober life.  I had a witness who had been with my client all day and could confirm that he was not drinking and that indeed he was very ill.

More importantly, as it turns out, I researched the code of Maryland regulations which regulates implementation and use of the ignition interlock device.  In the code of Maryland regulations it advises that if a participant provides a sample of .025 or greater they are in violation of the program, however, if within 5 min. they provide a sample which is less than that amount it is considered a false positive and not a violation.

Additionally, on the website of the ignition interlock provider they had a video introducing the participants to the features and other details of the ignition interlock device.  On the website it clearly stated that the device will detect even molecules of alcohol.  It warned against using mouthwash (which contains alcohol), medicine which contains alcohol before taking the breath test.  Further, it advised that eating right fruit, sweet juices, or even eating pizza shortly before using the ignition interlock device could lead to a false positive.  All of these food items could rapidly ferment in the stomach creating trace amounts of alcohol fleeting to the false positive.

In my case, my client drank some orange juice shortly before taking the test.  Waiting 5 min. allowed that temporary alcohol to dissipate resulting in the dramatically lower number.

At trial the probation agent testified he would have violated my client for any positive reading.  The probation agent had no idea about the code of Maryland regulations which stated that anything under .025 blood alcohol content is not to be considered a violation.  The trial judge noted the huge difference between the two results and found that the device is nowhere near as accurate as a normal breath machine used by law enforcement.  Based on this discrepancy and the code of Maryland regulations the judge found that my client was not in violation of probation.

If you have the ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle and you truly are not drinking and you receive a positive reading for blood-alcohol content, there could be an innocent reason for that.  if you are facing these troubles contact me and I can try to help