A policeman who tells a court that a driver was driving while intoxicated will have to back the allegation with scientific proof, such as a breathalyzer test or the results of a blood exam. In the precedent-setting ruling, the Ramle Magistrate Court threw out a DWI case against the driver of a motorcycle charged solely on the testimony of the police officers, who did not have any scientific data to verify their claim the driver was legally intoxicated.
The case deals with a woman driver who four years ago crashed the inspection point at the entrance to Ben-Gurion International Airport. She was apprehended after a pursuit. Police personnel involved in the arrest documented the driver had an odor of alcohol on his breath and acted as if he was intoxicated. When questioned, she admitted to having a drink but insisted she was not intoxicated. She did take a breathalyzer but that particular unit used is not recognized as admissible in court for it has been proven to be less than accurate.
The court explained that it has no choice for “not everyone with the smell of alcohol on their breath is legally intoxicated”, pointing out that there cannot be a DWI conviction based solely on the subjective opinions of police personnel.
To date, it was sufficient towards obtaining a conviction if police document a driver could not walk a straight line, touch his/her nose and the like. Many an Israeli driver have lost their license based on such evidence however, based on this ruling, police will now have to produce scientific data to back allegations of DWI.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)