Thousands of “Drunk Drivers” Wrongly Arrested in Missouri

A recent case decided by the Missouri Supreme Court may be of great importance to Missourians wrongfully subjected to the law enforcement system, especially because of the government agency involved in the case: the State Department of Revenue.

Attorney Matt Fry discovered that the breath analyzers being used by law enforcement to determine whether or not a driver was intoxicated (Driving While Intoxicated/DWI) had not been properly calibrated. Between December 2012 and February 2014 most who were arrested for a DWI, he claims, were arrested based on an unreliable machine.

According to KSDK,

Attorney Matt Fry estimates that as many as four thousand people in Missouri may have been given breath tests by police during the 14-month time period before the state regulations were revised. He said anyone who believes this applies to them should contact their attorney. 

“There are individuals out there who have done jail time, lost their license, lost their livelihood, had to pay lawyers thousand dollars to represent them,” said Fry.

Some people may be tempted to write these thousands of arrests off as insignificant. Perhaps some of the people found drunk on an unreliable breath analyzer really were above the legal limit. And just because a machine has not been calibrated within a certain time period doesn’t mean its readings are always false. Furthermore, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which regulates the devices, has since changed the standards.

It’s important to guard the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If police are allowed to ignore the standards the government has established to determine if someone is “Driving While Intoxicated,” then the rule of law is violated and police would then be arbitrarily arresting people.

The most significant detail in this legal case is the name of the state agency that defended the use of uncalibrated breath analyzers: The Department of Revenue. The State of Missouri deserves credit for being honest. It could have referred to another agency overseeing law enforcement or public safety. Instead, it admitted the real purpose of the law= taxation.

We may be safer with the enforcement of DWI laws, but as far as the State was concerned the primary purpose of the law was revenue collection.

Follow staff writer Joe Scudder at @PoliticalOutcas.

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