Logs raise breathalyzer maintenance suspicions

Target 8

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As police continue to investigate possible fraud by those who maintained more than 200 breathalyzer machines across the state, a West Michigan attorney said the situation came as no surprise to him.

Josh Blanchard, a Greenville defense attorney and owner of the Blanchard Law firm, told News 8 that he has had concerns about maintenance records that came after Intoximeters, the company who produces and maintains the machines, started servicing the them in 2018. 

“I’ve had a couple instances where I’ve wondered about the reliability of what’s been written in the records,” Blanchard said. “If we don’t have a reliable machine that’s maintained properly, we’re going to get bad numbers. We’re going to put people in jail that don’t belong there.”

Blanchard provided records of one such instance that raised his suspicion. 

To aid in defending his client, Blanchard requested maintenance logs of the Datamaster breathalyzer machine at the Ionia County Sheriff’s Department. 

The machines are required to be inspected by a technician every 120 days. The logs showed an inspection was conducted on May 10, 2018. To comply with the 120-day rule an inspection was due on or before Sept. 7.

In addition to the 120-day inspections, weekly accuracy checks are automatically printed by the machine. A staff member logs those on the same log where the outside inspector logs the 120-day checks.

In this case, one of the 120-day certifications is out of place. It is not noted on its own designated line and is instead squeezed in between accuracy checks on Sept. 3 and 10. The entry is not dated.

Blanchard noticed the oddity and suspected the certification may not have occurred when the log seemed to imply it did. He dug further and requested the Intoximeters staffer’s records submitted to the Michigan State Police.

His suspicions were confirmed.

A maintenance log of a Datamaster breathalyzer machine in Michigan. (Jan. 15, 2020)

The state police records indicated the inspection happened on Sept. 13, six days late. Blanchard says he wonders if the technician was trying to mask the tardiness of the inspection by logging it the way he did.

“The rules are there. They’ve got to follow them and when they don’t, it changes a case,” Blanchard said.

In that case, his client was offered a rare plea deal in the middle of his trial and the case was resolved. The problem with the log was one of the reasons the prosecutor decided to make the offer, Blanchard said.

In another case, the same Intoximeters representative logged two visits to service the machine at the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Department. The visits were three days apart.

Blanchard said he requested the reports on each visit from the state but was told MSP only had documentation of one of the visits.

“We’ve been seeing problems with the way they’ve been maintaining the machines,” Blanchard said.

The Michigan State Police announced Monday that it was investigating potential fraud connected to the Intoximeters contractors hired to maintain the machines.

The MSP director ordered all the state’s 203 Datamaster breathalyzer machines to be pulled from service until they could be evaluated by MSP personnel.

The director also announced that the contract with Intoximeters was being terminated and that MSP would take on maintenance of the machines internally.

Since then, Datamaster breathalyzer machines in both Kent County and Van Buren County have been inspected by MSP and have been verified to use again.

The criminal investigation into the potential fraud continues. It remains to be told how the investigation will impact drunk driving cases caught up in the potential fraud.

Intoximeters has not responded to requests for comment from News 8.

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