T.J.C. v. Comm'r of Public Safety
In 2020 T.J.C. was stopped after he fell asleep in a restaurant drive through lane. After blowing a .387 on a PBT, he was arrested and taken to the county jail for alcohol testing. Given the amount of alcohol T.J.C. consumed he politely requested to void his bladder. Instead, officers – citing jail “policy” – told T.J.C. he would have to wait until after he had consulted an attorney, and completed a breath test. “It won’t be long they said.”
The officers’ first attempt at administering the test ended when the DataMaster breath test machine produced a message stating the machine had failed internal diagnostic tests. Undeterred, the officers required T.J.C. to blow into the wonky machine. Later, after T.J.C. provided two breath samples well in excess of the minimum flow rate, volume and slope; the machine rejected the test as “deficient,” as the measurements of his alcohol concentration differed by more than 0.02 g/210L.
Officers accused T.J.C. of not following instructions and blowing improperly. They again told T.J.C. he would have to wait to void his bladder after their testing was complete. T.J.C. complied, again providing two samples of sufficient flow, slope and volume. But, again, the machine rejected the test as “deficient.”
T.J.C. was in obvious agony, but the officers coldly refused his growing desperate requests to use the restroom. Jail videos show more than 90 minutes lapsed before officers finally allowed T.J.C. to relieve himself.
Upon returning to the breath testing room, officers told T.J.C. he had refused testing for having two samples rejected by the machine. He pleaded with them to give him another chance. Officers declined.
Because T.J.C. had a previous DWI within ten years the state charged T.J.C. with 2nd Degree Test Refusal, forfeited his vehicle, and revoked his license for two years.
We challenged the case on due process and scientific grounds. First, the officers’ conduct of torturing a person by denying them a basic human right and causing them terrible pain shocks the conscience – and violates a person’s constitutional due process rights.
Second, the breath test lacked basic scientific protocols. The BCA failed to calibrate the machine above a .29 rendering the instrument incapable of determining an alcohol concentration over .29, and the results were outside the measurement uncertainty.
For these reasons we were able to get the refusal thrown out. T.J.C. got his vehicle back, the criminal charges were reduced (he was impaired, but the state couldn’t use the breath test to show charges should be enhance for being over .16) and the length of the license revocation was cut in half.