Lawyer: Alcohol Testing Device Is Racist

Daniel Tepfer, Connecticut Post, November 19, 2008

A lawyer representing a man arrested in Fairfield for drunken driving claims the state’s breathalyzers discriminate against African-Americans.

“They are KKK in a box,” said lawyer James O. Ruane of Shelton. “We really have some racist machines here.”

Ruane represents Tyrone Brown, 40, of Burritt Avenue, Norwalk, who was arrested April 9 by the State Police on Interstate 95 in Fairfield and charged with drunken driving. A breath analysis administered at State Police Troop G in Bridgeport found Brown had a blood-alcohol content of 0.188. The legal limit is 0.180.

In a motion filed Tuesday in Superior Court, Ruane asked a judge to suppress his client’s breathalyzer test results, contending the device used by the State Police and most other local police departments, the Intoxilyzer 5000, discriminates against African-Americans. Brown is an African-American.

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Ruane claims the lung capacity of the African-American man is 3 percent smaller than the Caucasian man and, therefore, black men test results vary from the sobriety standard set by the device.

He said that Dr. Michael Hlastala, a lung physiologist at the University of Washington, examined research of other lung physiologists and, based on his studies, has determined the Intoxilyzer 5000 does not effectively test the blood-alcohol content of African-American men.

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