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Lt. Nicholas Breul of Washington, D.C. MPD traffic safety, calls use of breathalyzers 'another tool in our belt'

10:23 PM, Sep 28, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- D.C. police told reporters Friday they are resuming the use of breathalyzers to help catch drunk drivers, but would not say where they were using the devices after nearly a year and a half without them.

"It's just another component. It's another tool in our belt when it comes to enforcing impaired driving laws. It's a good tool to have. It will give you an immediate result. It will give you an appraisal of someone's BAC (blood alcohol content). It is a chemical test that is viable and evidentiary that can be taken into court and used in prosecution so you have that, coupled with what we've been doing with urine and blood. It's just another tool in our belt," said Lt. Nicholas Breul, who is in charge of traffic safety programs for the Metropolitan Police Department.

The Department suspended use of the breathalyzers after they were found to be giving readings that were, at times, 20 percent too high, leading to the conviction and jailing of defendants who were, in fact, not legally drunk.

About two dozen of those defendants sued, costing the city more than $130 thousand in legal payouts.

"The effect upon our clients was that many served five-day jail sentences that they really should not have served," said plaintiffs' lawyer Jeffrey Rhodes.

"They were very distraught This had major effects, particularly, some clients actually lost jobs as a result of this, and some had security clearances, and some had, as a result of the time off they had to take from work because of the jail, they lost their jobs, so it was a significant impact on them.

"And they had records, as a DWI does stay on the record, and it is recognized in other jurisdictions. It was a significant impact on their lives," Rhodes told 9News Now..

D.C. Police say they have fixed the problems.

"(The changes) ensure that there were not just the regular safeguards, but additional safeguards put in, so that we have a defensible program," Lt. Breul told reporters Friday.

"Why has it taken so long? Well, one of the things that we've done is assured that we've got a solid program, a rock solid program and one that is scientifically viable," Breul said.

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