Midstate law enforcement making do without DUI breath tests

Last month local prosecutors appealed a motion to dismiss all Pennsylvania DUI cases in which a breathalyzer device was used.

In the meantime the effort continues to do without those kinds of tests and still do it as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Local counties have gone strictly to blood tests for DUI suspects while their appeal on the breath test motion makes its way through the judicial system.

There were some initial concerns from police about the change, including the time needed for an officer to drive a suspect to the hospital and wait for the blood test to be taken.

Dauphin County First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo says prosecutors have since worked to streamline the process with the hospitals.

“We've had meetings with hospitals so there is a procedure in place so we don't have to admit the arrestee, that we can draw the blood very quickly and get the officer back on the street,” he said.

Another concern of police was the cost of the blood tests. Chardo says the departments have been assured they will get their money back upon conviction.

“The chiefs have been willing to accept this cost as a first step to make the case,” said Chardo. “So they'll pay for it initially and we'll get it back from the defendant. We've got a great probation department that gets the money back.”

What the breath tests provided in efficiency, they actually lack in their scope.

Chardo says those tests can only detect alcohol. That leaves a whole lot of substances that can go undetected.

“With the blood test we can look for other substances whether they're illicit drugs or prescribed medications that might impair someone,” says Chardo. “So in many ways the blood draw is better.”

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