Pittsburgh police to continue to use breath testers to determine blood-alcohol levels
Pittsburgh police will continue to use breath testers to determine whether a motorist is under the influence of alcohol until the state Superior Court determines the accuracy of such tests, the police chief said on Wednesday.
“We will use them until the court comes down with a final decision,” Chief Nate Harper said before a Westmoreland County teenager gave city and state police three portable breath test units to help officers in the field determine if a motorist who is suspected of being impaired should undergo further testing.
State police decided in late January to use blood, not breath, to determine whether a motorist is legally impaired.
A Dauphin County judge ruled in December that breath tests are not accurate at levels beyond 0.15 percent, which typically result in harsher punishment for those convicted of drunken driving. A motorist is considered impaired in Pennsylvania with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has sent a letter to Harper and the Allegheny County Police Chiefs Association asking them to consider using blood tests for motorists with blood-alcohol levels above 0.15 percent and below 0.05 percent, spokesman Mike Manko said on Wednesday.
Harper said Sgt. Terry Donnelly, who administers the formal sobriety tests city police use to determine whether charges are warranted, recommended the city continue to use breath tests.
“Its results are instantaneous,” Donnelly said. “(The instruments) are calibrated by Allegheny County's Department of Laboratories. The solution used for the instrument comes from an independent lab, and they are calibrated within requirements of PennDOT.”
The portable breath test unit that was given to the city will be used “as another field sobriety test,” Donnelly said.
Madison “Maddie” Downs, a Latrobe Area High School student whose cousin was killed by an intoxicated driver, gave one portable unit to Donnelly and two to state police Trooper Robin Mungo, who is stationed in Moon.
Downs raised $1,000 for her 16th birthday for the Trooper Kenton Iwaniec Memorial Foundation, which purchased the portable units. Iwaniec was a Westmoreland County native who was killed by an intoxicated motorist while the trooper was driving home from work.
Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Grand jury report says Western Psych failed to cooperate with police
- 1 intruder killed, other shot and wounded in Carrick home invasion
- Foreign influx in Allegheny County at ‘tipping point’
- UPMC, Pittsburgh drop tax-status fight
- Pittsburgh crime down overall in 2013 but rapes, homicides increased
- TSA finds .380-caliber handgun in carry-on bag at Pittsburgh International Airport
- Squirrel Hill Tunnel workers cope with speeders, exhaust fumes
- Turtle Creek’s man death ruled a homicide
- Sewickley man dies in Route 28 motorcycle accident
- Allegheny County alert system expands to public works, health
- Emails show Allegheny County Council staff investigated potential snooping