Breaking News: Minnesota BCA Won't Certify DWI Breath Test Results

Posted On February 05, 2014 by Charles Ramsay

Today I uncovered a startling, groundbreaking fact about Minnesota's own Bureau of Criminal Apprehension â?? specifically its breath testing section. Apparently, the breath testing section of the BCA is not the scientifically accredited body that we were led to believe. While the BCA is technically accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, the truth is that this accreditation only extends to blood and urine alcohol testing â?? not breath testing. This is nothing less than an admission that the results of Minnesota breath tests are not scientifically valid, accurate or reliable, and should not be used to revoke a driver's license or convict a driver for DWI.

How can this possibly be? The breath testing section of the BCA is responsible for maintaining a fleet of approximately 200 DataMaster DMT instruments, which are used in approximately 20,000 breath tests each year. That is a lot of tests, tests that are used to take away driver's licenses and put drivers in jail â?? and every single one of those tests were unaccredited.

Take a peek behind the curtain: The BCA forensic crime laboratory advertises its accreditation as an ASCLD/LAB-International Testing Program for its blood and urine alcohol testing. However, this accreditation comes at a price: as a BCA employee recently explained in court, the BCA completely divorced the breath testing section from the rest of the forensic crime laboratory, knowing that the lackluster procedures used by the BCA breath test section would jeopardize the entire lab's accreditation unless they found a way to separate the two sections. The BCA employee then went even further, and admitted that the BCA itself won't certify DataMaster DMT test results, and then candidly admitted that no organization in existence would accredit Minnesota's breath testing program.

200 machines. 20,000 test-per-year. And the BCA won't certify a single result, won't even consider breath tests as part of the same lab that performs blood and alcohol tests. None of these breath tests are scientifically valid, and like other un-accredited "junk science| should not be used in court as evidence.

This lack of accreditation may be tied in part to the BCA's general hostility towards following the basic tenants of science, such as actually reporting inaccuracies in their tests like the rest of the scientific community. We predicted this behavior back in 2012, and then later pointed out on our Facebook page that the BCA only had until December 31, 2013 to start cooperating or they would risk losing their accreditation. From what we can tell, the BCA did bring its blood and urine testing programs into compliance before the deadline; they just did not bother with their breath testing program, instead jettisoning the whole program in an attempt to save the rest of the lab.

This is the point where good defense attorneys roll up their sleeves and get ready to renew the assault against shoddy science, making sure that judges and juries understand how little weight should be given to test results that lack basic accreditation.