EDITORIAL: Blowing deadline on breath tests causes trouble

2013-03-22T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Blowing deadline on breath tests causes trouble nwitimes.com
March 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

For many government agencies, there are few serious consequences when a deadline is missed. Sure, some people are inconvenienced, but it's not as if anyone's life depends on punctuality. The Indiana Department of Toxicology, however, is an exception.

The agency's failure to update rules on the certification of breath test equipment has prompted a legal challenge over the validity of tests done since at least Jan. 1.

Indianapolis attorney John Tompkins has filed a number of court cases in Marion County that contend the breath tests done this year are invalid.

"A couple of years ago, it surfaced there were some real shoddy practices (including) reporting false results, mostly for drug tests," when the Department of Toxicology was a part of Indiana University, Valparaiso attorney Larry Rogers explained.

The Indiana General Assembly created a state toxicology agency and ordered changes in equipment and operations certification, with a deadline of July 1, 2012. 

That deadline wasn't met, so the agency has lost its authority to certify breath test equipment and operators, Tompkins contends. 

So now Tompkins and other defense attorneys across the state are waiting to see whether cases involving drunken driving are tossed out because of the agency's failure to act on time.

It's a technicality, to be sure, but technicalities matter when it comes to the law — and, in this case, public safety.

Rather than wait to see which way the wind blows on Tompkins' challenge against the Indiana Department of Toxicology's sluggishness on standards for certification of breath test equipment, the agency should move quickly to set the new rules that should have been in place by now.

This is a lesson on the importance of getting work done on time. Assignments matter, whether from a teacher or from the Indiana General Assembly.

The safety of our roads depends on this agency doing what it is supposed to do, and before the deadline set by the Legislature.

Get this straightened out quickly to make sure drunken drivers can be held accountable.

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