PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office now says close to 1,500 drunken driving cases could potentially be in jeopardy because of improperly calibrated police breathalyzers.
The number was first reported to be 416 cases in early March, but that number rose to 1,147 cases on March 23rd.
However, after an investigation, it was determined that an additional 313 cases were impacted, bringing the total to 1,460.
During a press conference on March 16th, when the 1,147 cases were announced, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey minced no words.
“We screwed up, folks. 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 says the calibration error was discovered by a defense attorney in court and an audit was conducted.
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.
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.
For the next few months, Judge Neifeld has designated courtroom 406 at the Criminal Justice Center on Wednesday mornings to hear requests for new trials involving the improperly calibrated Breathalyzer machines.
Assistant District Attorney Lynn Nichols will be in charge of those cases.
“The right thing should happen. This was human error. Clearly we were supposed to make sure that the regulations were followed. It wasn’t followed and we just want to make sure that the right thing happens. No, we don’t want DUI people on the street, but we just want to make sure that these remedies happen in the right way,” Nichols said.
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 seeking new trials.
Reported By Steve Beck, CBSPhilly.com; Walt Hunter, CBS 3