San Francisco DUIs Could Be Overturned Due To SFPD Error

The San Francisco District Attorney recently discovered that the San Francisco Police Department was not conducting mandatory accuracy tests on Preliminary Alcohol Screening devices (used to help officers determine if a driver has been drinking) before using them in the field. The error could potentially overturn hundreds -- if not thousands -- of DUIs.

In a joint press release, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and Public Defender Jeff Adachi explained the investigation:

Since the mid-1990s, the SF Police Department has used Preliminary Alcohol Screening devices to administer breath tests to motorists suspected of driving under the influence. [...] Under the SFPD Policy Manual and the PAS manufacturer's guide, accuracy checks of the devices are required every ten days.

Public Defender Adachi said that several Deputy Public Defenders who had reviewed accuracy logs noticed that the maintenance records showed that the results of sample testing when compared to the actual reading were identical.

"It's a mathematical impossibility to consistently have the same results for sample testing and the actual reading," said Adachi. The Public Defenders office discovered that officers had not been performing mandatory tests at all.

According to KCBS, the SFPD devices may not have been tested in at least six years.

To make matters worse, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, the investigation has also revealed that the substance used to perform the accuracy tests expired in 2010.

"We do not know how many cases will be affected at this point," said Adachi. "But we are asking anyone who was convicted of driving under the influence or alcohol related driving offense to contact our office." Adachi specified that only cases involving the PAS devices would be potentially affected.

"We will carefully review closed cases to determine if further action is needed," said Gascon.

Considering the SFPD handles hundreds of DUI cases each year and cases going as far back as 2006 will be reviewed, the investigation could potentially overturn thousands.