SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Hundreds, or even thousands, of drunk driving convictions could be overturned because the San Francisco Police Department has not tested its breathalyzers, officials said Monday.

For at least six years, the police officers in charge of testing the 20 breathalizyers used by the Police Department did not carry out any tests on the equipment.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Officers instead filled the test forms with numbers that matched the control sample, said Public Defender Jeff Adachi, throwing countless DUI convictions into doubt.

“We do expect that the cases will be in the hundreds. It’s possible that it could go into the thousands. The District Attorney’s Office is still investigating the scope of this,” Adachi said during a joint news conference with District Attorney George Gascon.

Gascon said there did not appear to be any malicious intent behind the police officers’ actions. He said the coordinators were apparently just too lazy to perform the test required every 10 days.

“If we find cases where this evidence was central to the case,” Gascon said, the District Attorney’s Office would dismiss the case.

San Francisco police are not using the breathalyzers while the prosecutor’s office conducts its investigation, Gascon said, adding that convictions stemming from stops by other police agencies such as the California Highway Patrol would not be affected.

Adachi invited anyone arrested by San Francisco police on suspicion of driving under the influence and later convicted because of a preliminary alcohol screening test to contact the Public Defender’s Office at (415) 553-1081 or the attorney who handled the case.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Comments (49)
  1. oldfart says:

    those in charged, and those who filled out the forms need to be fired immediately.

    this is just one more big embarrassment for the city, along with the Sheriff the Mayor needs to stand up, take charge and remove these people.


  2. Choice says:

    How is a juror to make a decision on another individuals life….
    When faulty equipment give the wrong results?
    I for one do not want to send an innocent person to jail.

    1. Mark Matis says:

      You might want to look up “testilying”. Get ready to understand that it is not only “faulty equipment” giving results favorable to the prosecution, but perjury and falsification of evidence by “Law Enforcement” personnel as well. And the judges and prosecutors, who stand to gain by same, estimate that 20% of “Law Enforcement” evidence is testilying.

      The stench is overwhelming. And it smells like pig.

  3. tn says:

    Uh-oh, now what are we going to do for money? How about raising the parking fees again, parking citations another time, temporary sales tax increase, another bond or Measure M (money) to raise more money so that our politicos can keep spending and funding stuff like more committees to watch the other committees while we build more prisons and bump their basic cable TV to HD…

    1. DonM says:

      I guess they could fire the police officers who falsified calibration or test data that could be used in court for perjury, makeing false statements. Fines and jail time would also be just.

      1. Mark Matis says:

        Ain’t gonna happen. These are Only Ones. They are better than you. And don’t you dare forget it or their Brothers in Blue will remind you…

  4. montana mike says:

    Oldfart got it right. Someone needs to be fired.Mayor Rose Pak needs to step in and do something.

  5. NoHateSF says:

    No malicious intent????

    They VERY intentionally collected a FAT salary, while lying, forging legal records, putting possibly innocent people in jail, or letting criminals go free to murder later.

    Oh, and don’t forget all the tax $$$’s we will blow via settling all this mess.

    “Off with their paychecks” is what I say.

    1. Greg Q says:

      Firing is only the start. They need to all go to jail, for a long time.

  6. jack says:

    Government just doesn’t get the job done any more.

  7. TC says:

    Important to note that the device in question is the preliminary screening device (used in the field as part of the sobriety tests), not the intoxilyzer used at the hall of justice (nor blood or urine samples)…

    Frankly, I would be surprised to see many convictions overturned because of this, as long as the officer did not solely rely on e PAS…

  8. Alex says:

    As usual with these stories, I have more questions than answers. First thing I want to know, is who spilled the beans? Was it a cop who got busted for a DUI and knew that these machines were not calibrated!! What is a “preliminary alcohol screening”? I’m assuming that means when they pull you over and are arresting you? For a city the size of SF they only have 20 Breathalyzers, WOW. “If we find cases where this evidence is central to the case” the case would be dismissed. If I was the person being picked up for a dui I’d find that very central to the case, you don’t need to be an attorney to figure that one out. Paragraph two, states, “Police Officers in charge of testing the 20 breathalyzers” yet paragraph five states the “Coordinators” were apparently just to lazy”. So was it a police office or a coordinator who tests the equipment. Don’t know if I would want a cop calibrating the equipment, conflict of interest, if you know what I mean. More info please.

  9. TC says:

    The device is checked out by an officer and carried in the vehicle. When a suspected DUI is stopped, the officer will request a PAS be brought to the stop. It measures the blood alcohol, and gives a visual readout. Does not print out a record, or transmit the results anywhere. Officer should incorporate driving indications, objective symptoms of intoxication (odor on breath, appearance, speaking difficulties, coordination issues, balance problems, inability to follow simple directions, etc.) and the PAS results as part of the decision to arrest.

    At the PD or jail, subject will have choices for a chemical test. Breath is one. Intoxilyzer is used. Does similar job as PAS, but prints out a hard copy record, and transmits results to the crime lab.

    Officer should never rely just on the PAS for cause to arrest. Report quality is key for prosecution. Good thorough report, PAS issue will be mot.

    1. TC says:

      Also, the officers would not calibrate the devices, only check the calibration. Big difference…

  10. TC says:

    “PAS issue will be moot.” is how last sentence should read…

  11. lee says:

    Corrupt “Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement – California Dept. of Justice” steal from suspects, sell drugs skimmed from busts and provide murder for hire.

  12. Citizen says:

    It is happeningt in Illinois also. Probably in every state. I commented on this over 10 hours ago and it wasn’t posted. Maybe I gave Too Much Info!!! Also, the so called car breath tests they insist you have to keep your license are very faulty. Many things can set them off and if they go off too much you are fined even more. When this happened to my family member, he just gave up his driving priviledges for 6 months to not have to deal with all the faulty equipment that you have to pay 100 dollars a month for. Just a money game. Safety road checks should be unconstitutional.

  13. Standup says:

    And the anti-alcohol fanatics from MADD say…
    (The sound of crickets chirping)

  14. Michael says:

    Everyone is missing the real point here… What does this mean about the Mythbusters beat the breath tester verdict of busted across the board!? I DEMAND A REVISIT!

  15. Lawboy says:

    This reporter should be admonished as everything about this story is MISLEADING.

    Only with a careful reading do you find that they are talking about PRELIMINARY breath screening devices, i.e. portable ones the cops use on the street. A smart person NEVER blows into that one, as all it is for is give the cops a reason to haul you in, just like all of the other “field sobriety tests”. Doing any of those tests only give the cops the ability to say “well, he failed this, stumbled there, slurred words there” when you pass the breath test at the station and they don’t have the slam-dunk easy conviction they thought they would.

    If you ever get pulled over for drunk driving, don’t do ANY of the field tests. No harm comes from not doing them and other than you will have to take your time to go to the station for the REAL breath test, which you’re going to get to do anyway.

  16. lee says:

    The FBI and DEA fabricate evidence, steal from suspects and use murder to close those bad cases.

    Corrupt DOJ employees tamper with my car. Who do they think they are that they can cause a automobile accident only because I complain about being harassed.

    I parked my car at the Noah’s baggle store in Milpitas. While I went inside one blocked view with her car, another watched me inside the store, while another damaged the interior of my car. In the past they have also pried off wheel weights and also put slices in my tires.

  17. lancaster says:

    Corrupt California DEA where stealing drugs from evidence vaults and reselling them to cover extensive credit card debt.
    They also are creating suspects by planting evidence just so that they can steal from them.
    Given the choice of suspension or dealing with their debt most DEA are thinking outside the box.

  18. George Ronald Adkisson says:

    There should be a litmus paper type test employed, rather than an electronic device that needs calibration.
    Also…any place that serves an alcoholic drink should also require the patron have a card stating the rate of metabolism and not serve over that rate during the patron’s visit.
    Women of course metabolize alcohol at a different rate than men…and slender humans usually metabolize and exhibit a different saturation level than people with a high fat ratio.
    That along with a good observation techniques by the commercial establishments can also insure that the receipts are correct for the city liquor tax collectors. But that could reduce the numbers of employees over 100,000 dollars per year in the local police departments.
    Instead of adding the DD214 to the DMV for states to comply with addition identification retirements…the facts could also be added to the DMV licenses or IDs if observations of patrons had concluded they were a risk when consuming an alcoholic drink.
    That would help the quick stop type beverage sales in communities near schools and children that ended in cases where large amounts were purchased, but later led to a traffic fatality…+ with the added information, stopped the sales to the holder of the ID only benefiting the individual in question…like some of the sales of some pharmaceuticals containing the ingredients for crystal Meth are in Wal-Mart.
    I actually do not think the local police unions would have any comment on this idea or a similar one.Since living in an environment that can be defined as not contributing to something called wholesome, is actually the tradition across the country.
    Oakland is a good example all to itself, but San Fransisco is a very unusual place to enjoy the expectations of visiting computer conventions, etc. and not expect some unusual displays other than an increase in suicide levels for the month of January 2012.
    Personally…I know better about the residents of San Fransisco…but question the leaders in government.
    Everyone have a wonderful day….

  19. eric says:

    Do their job? That would interrupt valuable doughnut eating time!

  20. JAY says:

    So thousands of those found guilty of DUIs will now have their convictions overturned and their licenses reinstated. I recommend everyone be real careful on the streets of SF for the next few months.

  21. Big Boy says:

    One thing the city could do NOW is to promise to pay ALL the legal fees of those charged under this long-standing FRAUD. Every dollar in the original case and every dollar in the correction case. ALL of it. If it came out of the PD’s budget, they might learn a lesson. Laws apply to Law Enforcement too.

  22. Roux says:

    The dirty little secret is most of these machines aren’t very accurate and are being used to ruin many people’s lives after just a drink or two. Hey, but there’s big money in it.

  23. Been there, done that says:

    Before state/city employees unionized” The officers were fired today.”

    Now that every state/city/county employee is unionized: “The officers will be placed on paid administrative leave pending a hearing. After a long, expensive hearing, the officers will be transfered, docked a week’s pay and that will later be overturned by an arbitrator afraid of the Unions. They will retain their pensions, even tho their laziness will cost the city millions. ‘we are no accountable to anyone,’ said one officer.”

  24. SF Corruption says:

    The district attorney should be fired for that comment. Ruining people’s lives can’t be excused by “lazyness.” Heads should roll and probably will.
    I’d say that the SF police are incredibly corrupt and this is a sign on their contempt for the law.

    Yes, the unions will protect the workers, the leftists of SF will protect the radical Chief of Police and the citizens who work and pay taxes will get the bill for all the lawsuits. I say fire them all, Including the Mayor and his culture of corruption.

  25. fiftyville says:

    Bad cops! No doughnuts for you!

    Wait a minute, it’s San Francisco…

    Bad cops! No fajitas for you!

  26. Doubting Rich says:

    If I lost my driving licence I would also lose my job, and therefore probably my house. How on Earth are people in that situation going to be compensated? I would want hundreds of thousands if I lost pretty much the whole structure of my life to some corrupt, lazy police.

  27. Dantes says:

    Obscene behavior on the part of these overpaid law enforcement officers. They should be fired, but they won’t be. I like the excuse. No malicious intent. That would be a great defense for planting evidence, giving false testimony (which is what this essentially is) or excessive force resulting in the death of a suspect.

  28. Marty says:

    ‘No malicious intent?” Oh, that makes it OK.

    They shoud be fired and if possible lose their pensions, and be prosecuted. The Feds have prosecuted local government employees (and gotten convictions) for withholding honest services the public paid for and had a right to expect. That sounds like a fine start.

  29. The Libertarian says:

    Fraud is a firable offense, isn’t it? Even for municipal unions employees.

    People need to go to jail.

  30. Ryan Waxx says:

    “If we find cases where this evidence was central to the case,”

    Translation: they’re going to rely on the police report where the officer stated that the suspect was slurring their speech, etc.

    Problem is: Police falsify that too! They’ve been caught putting the same symptoms in for ALL their DUI arrests. They put standard language in in order to make the ticket bulletproof, but they LIE when the standard language doesn’t match what happened.

    So very few people will be exonerated by this revelation, because one lie covers the other. A lie-filled police report will say you were slurring and lurching, and you will get NOTHING back. Not your points, not your money, not your dignity.

  31. Mike says:

    Since when is malfeasance of duty and what is essentially fraud an error?

    What hell?

  32. Hortensia Allende-Tupper says:

    BEWARE THIS IS HAPPENING STILL, in San Mateo City, CA, off El Camino, The breathalyzer registered a .4, which would kill a horse. The driver requested a blood test and is still waiting for the results. An easy way to make quotas for police and abuse their power. They roughed up the driver after he requested the blood test and hopefully did not tamper with this evidence as well. We should go back to the walking test and have it video taped. The fleecing of America continues as long as we keep the money in the process.