PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In the wake of an exclusive CBS 3 I-Team Investigation that first revealed more than 400 drunken driving cases could be in jeopardy because of an improperly calibrated police breathalyzer, Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner and District Attorney revealed the number of potentially tainted cases has risen to 1,147.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (below) minced no words.
“We screwed up, folks,” he told reporters this morning at the Police Administration Building. “We screwed up, plain and simple, and now we are paying for it. But we’ve got to get the information out there and make it right. That’s the bottom line.”
Inspector Christine Coulter (right) says the calibration error was discovered by a defense attorney in court in last month, an audit was conducted, and at this time potentially 1,147 cases between September 2009 and November 2010 could be affected.
The CBS 3 I-Team first reported on March 16th that 416 drunk-driving suspects arrested from November through February were tested with an improperly calibrated unit.
However, during Wednesday’s news conference, police officials said that number has nearly tripled.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey blamed the problems, which involved arrests between September, 2009 and November, 2010, on human error. He says new safeguards to prevent problems like this from happening again are already in place.
District Attorney Seth Williams says letters will now be sent to all suspects, advising them that breathalyzer evidence will not be used against them in court. Suspects already found guilty, or who have pled guilty, will have the option of seking new trials.
The police commissioner says the department is continuing its investigation and the number of drunk driving arrest cases with problems caused by the improperly calibrated Btreathlyzer could go even higher.
Reported by Walt Hunter, CBS 3 and Michelle Durham, KYW Newsradio