A scandal involving alleged forged certifications of breath testing machines is rocking the Colorado legal community. It could result in the overturning of thousands of DUI convictions in the state. In an article published on March 14, 2017, the Denver Post provided these basic facts concerning the scandal:
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is responsible for validating, certifying and maintaining the Intoxilyzer 9000, the breath test machine which analyzes the blood-alcohol content of every suspected drunken driver in Colorado. The article quotes Mark Barnhill, a former employee of the department as saying:
“a supervisor told three people – who were not technicians and two of whom were not state employees – to calibrate and validate the machines and then sign his name on the certification forms.”
Barnhill objected to these actions, but was over-ruled and later left the agency.
The alleged forgeries came to light in 2015, when some DUI defense attorneys began to suspect that something was amiss with machine certifications. While investigating the validity of breath test results for their clients, they noticed that some breath test certifications listed the name of former state health department laboratory director Laura Gillim-Ross though she no longer worked at the agency. Digging deeper, they learned about Mark Barnhill’s allegations of forgery.
What Happens Now?
Some 33 DUI convictions have already been thrown out because Intoxilyzer 9000 machines were calibrated improperly. DUI defense lawyers throughout Colorado are scrutinizing additional cases to determine whether a basis exists to get more convictions overturned.
The Colorado Criminal Defense Bar has called for a thorough and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the scandal. But Governor John Hickenlooper has rejected this. The governor’s legal counsel claims that the state’s internal investigation was sufficient.
The scandal highlights the fact that a single mistake made by a law enforcement official during the course of a DUI case can get the charge thrown out or a conviction overturned.
Anyone who was convicted after the new Intoxilyzer 9000 machines were rolled out in 2013 should speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If the machine used to test your breath was improperly certified or calibrated, or if there was some other impropriety involving the particular machine that was used, it may be possible to get the conviction overturned.