A trial judge shouldn't have suppressed a drunk-driving breath test on grounds that a time change interfered with the prosecution, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today on an issue of first impression.
Deciding on State of Indiana v. Jason Cioch, No. 79S05-0902-CR-00092, justices unanimously found that Tippecanoe Superior Judge Michael Morrissey erred when he suppressed the prosecution's evidence on a traffic infraction and two drunk-driving misdemeanors from the late 2007 incident.
On Nov. 10, 2007, Purdue University Police Department officers stopped Cioch for traveling in the wrong direction on a one-way street and suspected he was driving while intoxicated. Another certified officer used a B.A.C. Datamaster to administer the test, but he noticed the device hadn't been adjusted to reflect the daylight saving time change the previous Sunday. He contacted several other law enforcement agencies but couldn't find a breath test instrument with the correct time. As he couldn't change the time himself, the officer administered the test and one of the other officers noted the time difference in his incident report - both were within three hours of the officers stopping Cioch.
The tests showed his alcohol level was 0.08, but Cioch moved to suppress the results because of the DST difference. The trial judge granted the motion because of the inaccurate time stamp on the breath test printout, finding that prosecutors failed to meet their burden of establishing an adequate foundation for admitting the evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a not-for-publication memorandum opinion in December.
Noting that Indiana courts haven't yet discussed the accuracy of the time stamp relating to test-result reliability, justices turned to caselaw from the Missouri Court of Appeals that held an inaccurate time stamp isn't evidence of a malfunction or faulty finding.
The Cioch case presents nothing to show that the certified breath test administrator did anything wrong or endangered the test reliability, Indiana's justices noted, adding that Cioch's best authority for his position comes from State v. Johanson, 695 N.E.2d 965 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998), where the appellate court affirmed a trial judge's suppression of test results where the machine printed out a blank ticket and the operator wrote all the test information by hand from what he saw on the screen.
"Without reflecting on whether that was adequate ground for suppression, we think the officer's action in this instance, noting a Daylight Savings difference, raises only a de minimus concern about the accuracy of the test results," Chief Justice Randall Shepard wrote. "We hold that the evidence is admissible."