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Alcohol-breath devices put back in service

LANSING (AP) — Nearly 40 of Michigan’s 203 desktop alcohol-breath devices have been returned to service, the state police director said Thursday as he updated lawmakers on an investigation that could raise questions about some drunken driving cases.

Col. Joe Gasper also identified eight police agencies , including the Alpena County Sheriff’s Office, with “discrepancies” in 52 breath tests linked to the DataMaster DMT machines, including some that went back more than a year.

“Part of our frustration is the inability to provide clear and precise information about how many people are going to be affected by this,” Gasper said. “We are actively going through the data. … The moment we discover discrepancies or irregularities, there will be notifications made as soon as possible.”

Gasper announced Monday that all 203 machines were being sidelined until the state police could verify that each was properly calibrated. The DataMaster breath test is used to measure alcohol levels at county jails or police departments after a motorist is arrested. It’s not a roadside test.

At least 37 are back in service and the rest of them could be by the end of February, Gasper said.

State police are investigating whether any crimes were committed by contractors who must certify that the machines are properly calibrated.

State police so far have found problems with DataMasters during certain time periods at sheriff departments in Alpena, Montcalm and Van Buren counties. The Detroit Detention Center and police departments in Beverly Hills, Niles, Tecumseh and Pittsfield Township were also named. There were a total of 52 breath tests.

“As irregularities are identified, notification is made to the affected prosecutor regarding impacted breath tests. Prosecutors will review each case on a case-by-case basis to determine what actions to take,” Gasper said.

A Lansing-area lawyer, Mike Nichols, said bad breath-test evidence doesn’t instantly spoil a drunken driving case. Gasper had a similar message.

“In many cases there is other evidence of intoxication and impairment, such as observed driving, sobriety tests and witness observations that provide indications of drunk driving,” Gasper said.