People v. Tipolt: Foundation for Breath Test Evidence

In the case of People v. Tipolt, the Court of Appeals discusses the foundation requirements for the introduction of Breathalyzer evidence for trial.

The Facts

Defendant Tipolt was arrested in White Lake Township and charged with the equivalent of the driving while intoxicated crimes at the time the case was decided.

In the District Court, the defense moved to suppress the results of the Breathalyzer machine. The defense claimed there a failure by the police to comply with the administrative rules regarding the machine. The specific rule at hand was the requirement for an inspection by a class IV operator of the machines within 120 days of the machine’s last inspection date.

The Law

In order to admit evidence resulting from a chemical test at trial, the prosecution must show four things:

  • The operator of the machine must be qualified,
  • The proper method or procedure must be demonstrated as followed,
  • The tests must be performed within a reasonable amount of time after the arrest, and
  • The testing device must be shown to be reliable.

The prosecutor must meet these foundational requirements in order to admit the breath test results.

The Court said suppression of test results is not required for every violation of the administrative rules. However, a violation of the administrative rules regarding the administration of the breath test makes the accuracy of the test sufficiently questionable so as to preclude the test results from being admitted into evidence.

The Administrative Rule at Issue in This Case

At least once a week the breath machine must be verified for accuracy by a Class II or III operator. The breath machine must be inspected, verified for accuracy, and certified as to their proper working order by a class IV operator within 120 days of the last inspection.

The Court ruled that these administrative requirements must be adhered to when the machine is in service.

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Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 2750 Carpenter Rd #2, Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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