Missouri bill allows more breath-test evidence in DWI cases

February 1, 2017 GMT

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri House passed a bill Wednesday that could overturn a state Supreme Court decision pertaining to breath-test evidence in drunken driving cases.

The bill would allow courts to use breath-test evidence gathered from Dec. 30, 2012, through April 4, 2014, in driving-while-intoxicated cases. The House passed the legislation by a 127-37 vote. It now goes to the Senate.

The legislation would effectively overturn a 2016 ruling throwing out breath tests from machines that weren’t calibrated in compliance with the state law in effect at that time.

Proponents of the bill say the issue was due to a clerical error, and throwing out the evidence denied justice for victims in DWI cases.


The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dean Plocher, said the outcome of pending felony DWI cases could be changed by the law. The House voted to add an emergency clause, which would put the law into effect immediately after passage in the Senate.

“There are court hearings that need to be had, and I think the defendants need to have justice,” Plocher said.

Others said the state Supreme Court has already decided the case and that it would be unconstitutional to retroactively change the law.

“It was in law and that’s tragic and it’s a horrible thing, but I don’t think that this fix is an appropriate fix,” Rep. Gina Mitten said. “I think the Supreme Court will overturn it.”

The 2012 law said breath-test machine must be calibrated using chemical solutions with a vapor level of “1.10 percent, 0.08 percent and 0.04 percent.”

But law enforcement officers said the machines are typically only calibrated to one level. The defense argued in the case that it was a clerical mistake and the rules should’ve said “or” instead of “and”.


The court ruled that the breath test couldn’t be used because it didn’t follow the law, setting the precedent that any breath test evidence collected during that time could be dismissed.


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