Thousands of ‘drunk drivers’ off the hook

2011-09-09 14:23

Thousands of people in the Western Cape who were facing drunk-driving charges as a result of failing the Dräger breathalyser test will have their cases struck from the court roll following a verdict handed down by the Cape High Court today.

Following a challenge by Capetonian Clifford Hendricks to the reliability of the Dräger breathalyser – introduced by authorities in 2009 as a means of determining the sobriety of drivers – Judge Nathan Erasmus ruled the Dräger system in the province should be suspended until concerns over the system are resolved.

Acquitting Hendricks of the drunk-driving charges against him, Erasmus said the Dräger’s software needed to be modified, a temperature sensor added, and that suspected offenders needed to provide two breath samples rather than one.

Hendricks’s argument to the court, brought by his advocate, Derek Mitchell, was that he was not drunk on the night of January 23 2010, and blood should have been taken to determine his sobriety.

Hendricks challenged the validity, accuracy and the reliability of the Dräger over its results, which determined that he was four times over the legal limit.

Among other things, he disputed that the Dräger functioned properly, that the officer operating it was qualified to do so, that it was capable of determining the alcohol level on his breath.

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