New Castle News

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February 1, 2013

Breathalyzer suspension won’t be felt locally

NEW CASTLE — A decision by state police to temporarily suspend use of breathalyzer machines will have no effect in Lawrence County.

The reason is the machines aren’t used by police departments here, according to Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa.

Instead, police always have a person’s blood tested, he said.

State police suspended use of the machines in suspected drunken driving cases because of a Dauphin County judge’s decision to throw out several driving under the influence cases after learning one manufacturer had omitted a state requirement to have a liquid solution tested by independent labs.

Lamancusa said local police may sometimes conduct a portable breath test, which is used as a barometer to see if a driver has any alcohol in his system.

“But we never rely on the percentages it gives us,” he said, adding it isn’t admissible in court.

“Any type of criminal prosecution relies on a blood test where blood is drawn at the hospital,” he said.

If an officer smells alcohol on a person who exhibits signs of unsafe driving, the individual is taken to the hospital to have his blood drawn, Lamancusa explained. The drawn blood is then sent to a nationally accredited laboratory to determine the alcohol level.

Lamancusa said the key is to have the blood drawn as soon as possible after an arrest.

A state police spokesman said the case is being appealed.

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