08 Dec 2021

Ballymahon drink driving case dismissed due to incorrect calibration of alcometer

Court hears 'appropriate' calibration of alcometer necessary


A man who appeared before last week’s sitting of Longford District Court charged in connection with a drink driving incident had his case dismissed following a lengthy hearing into the matter.

The man appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes charged with driving while over the legal limit at Antley, Ballymahon, Co Longford on March 29, 2018.

Outlining the evidence to the court, Garda Fitzpatrick said that on the date in question he was on duty at a local garda station when at approximately 1:20am, he established a mandatory intoxicant checkpoint along the N55 at Antley, close to the town of Ballymahon.

The court was told that when the defendant approached the checkpoint, Garda Fitzpatrick spoke to him and asked him to engage in a roadside breath test.

The defendant agreed and the results came back positive, the Garda added.

Meanwhile, Garda Fitzpatrick arrested the defendant on suspicion of drink driving and took him to Longford Garda Station where an intoxilyzer test later indicated a reading of 65 mg/alcohol per 100ml/breath.

Under cross examination by the defendant’s barrister Mr Dudley, Garda Fitzpatrick was questioned about the status of the townland of Antley.

“Is it a recognised townland?,” the barrister asked, before the Garda pointed out that it was a townland located between Ballymahon and Carrickboy.

“I looked at the map but I can’t find a reference to the townland of Antley.

“Do you know where the boundary of Antley is?”.

Garda Fitzpatrick then admitted to the court that while he did not know the boundary, he was “confident that the checkpoint was in Antley”.

Mr Dudley, meanwhile told the court that he had two points to make regarding the application of the roadside breath test.
The first, he added, was the ‘perceived’ failure of the test.

“Gardaí have the powers to stop a vehicle and to request a breath specimen,” he continued.

“Having listened to Garda Fitzpatrick’s evidence, it is not clear whether my client was arrested under section 9 or section 10 [Road Traffic Act].”

Mr Dudley then went on to explain the difference between the two sections to the court.

Judge Hughes then pointed out to the barrister that all that mattered to him was whether or not the Garda had the powers to stop the defendant and request a breath test.

Mr Dudley then went on to explain further about the calibration of the alcometer machine at the Garda Station.

“The device can be calibrated; all we know is that the accused failed the test, yet we don’t know if the machine was calibrated appropriately,” he continued.

“The calibration must be appropriate to the accused’s driving licence.

“There is provision in the Road Traffic Act in respect of this and if the person is not in a position to produce their licence then a garda is entitled to then treat them as a specified driver.”

The barrister said it was therefore imperative that the machine be calibrated in line with that.

“If this is the case then the machine must then be set accordingly,” Mr Dudley added, before pointing out that on the night in question his client had produced a full driving licence - a fact that was essential to his argument.

“It is not clear whether or not the alcometer was calibrated in line with a specified or non specified driver.

“This is a very important point in all of this.”

Judge Hughes then pointed out that he was inclined to agree with the barrister’s arguments in the case before him.

Following his deliberations on the matter, he said he was “leaning in favour” of Mr Dudley on this occasion.

“The level is appropriate and Garda Fitzpatrick is missing this information from his evidence,” the Judge concluded.

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