The Arizona Republic
June 28, 1999
HUNDREDS OF DUIS AT RISK
BREATH-TEST DATA DELETED
Dennis Wagner, The Arizona Republic
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Hundreds of drunken driving cases throughout Arizona could be dismissed because prosecutors and crime lab technicians allegedly concealed evidence from the breath-testing equipment.
But defense lawyers almost universally agree that prosecutors have violated ethical canons. And some contend there may be criminal misconduct.
"Unquestionably, there are ethical problems with this," said Craig Penrod. "These are clearly public records. They're clearly being destroyed. . . .And it's a Class 6 felony to tamper with a public record."
Penrod also said guilty defendants could get off on a technicality caused by the government's conduct. And inmates sentenced to prison because of prior DUI convictions may have grounds to appeal.
But Tempe Municipal Court Judge Mary Ann Majestic recently ordered breath-test evidence suppressed for 15 defendants in a single hearing. Majestic ruled that defendants were being subjected to "trial by machine," without an opportunity to present a full defense.
Penrod said a majority of the Tempe cases were later dropped by the City Attorney's Office because it is difficult to win a conviction without lab results.