Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Cries Uncle
Truth is often stranger than fiction. Since the beginning of 2016, Ramsay Law Firm has been making a concerted effort to expose the flaws in Minnesota's DWI breath testing scheme. We've brought challenges in courthouses around the state, sometimes bringing in experts from around the country, sometimes just subpoenaing breath test scientists from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and confronting them directly with the science that refutes their breath test results.
After almost a year of exposing these flaws - lack of traceable results, misleading methods of reporting bias, failures to admit just how inaccurate breath tests really are â?? we started a blog series explaining our methods, providing the scientific basis for our challenges, and presenting our evidence to a wider audience. Alongside our blog, we were being asked to present at numerous nationwide seminars, including the annual two-day Criminal Justice Institute and presentations sponsored by the Innocence Project.
On the heels of the last blog post in the series, where we released a series of transcripts detailing our efforts in the courtroom, we received some astounding news: the BCA cried uncle.
Yesterday, in court, for the first time, a BCA scientist revealed that they are now willing to share just how inaccurate Minnesota's breath tests actually are. The number they cited was basically "0.01,| an uncertainty figure that specifically applies to tests around the 0.08 level (we know there will be even more uncertainty at higher levels).
It took months and months of effort to finally expose this figure, but the hardest part is done. The BCA will now admit that breath tests are more than 3 times as inaccurate as urine or blood tests, and this number calls into question any breath test that is 0.09 or lower. This potentially negates hundreds of pending DWI cases were drivers were close to the legal limit â?? and will have lasting consequences for drivers who are close to that other limit, 0.16 (where enhanced penalties attach).
Consider this fact, helpfully provided to us by the Department of Public Safety: annually, Minnesota sees approximately 2,000 drivers who provide a breath sample between 0.08 and 0.09 and get charged with a DWI. With this new information, those drivers are very much "not guilty."
Interestingly, we also found out that the BCA obtained this |0.01| number by hiring the very expert we were continually throwing in their faces â?? Rod Gullberg. The BCA spent months distancing themselves from Gullberg's publications and questioning his qualifications . . . but in the end, they actually paid him to help them release the numbers that we had been demanding since the beginning.
The fight certainly isn't over, but this is a huge step. We now, finally, can get the BCA to admit that |0.08| does not actually equal |0.08,| and that uncertainty affects the results of their breath tests substantially more than when a driver is subjected to a urine or a blood test.
Today was a good day â?? it's not often that science prevails in a legal battle, especially when government scientists are doing their best to convince judges that the science doesn't matter.
Today it matters.