1,200 DWI convictions in Harris County will be set aside
More than 1,200 driving while intoxicated convictions in Harris County are invalid after a contractor was convicted of faking inspections of alcohol breath testing devices, prosecutors said.
Deetrice Wallace, a Department of Public Safety contractor, told investigators that she had falsified inspections records for South Houston and Clute police department intoxilyzers.
Wallace was prosecuted for three counts of tampering with a governmental record and on Friday was sentenced to a year in prison (not enough in my opinion).
Harris County Assistant District Attorney Terese Buess said about 1,000 defendants convicted of DWI can petition for a retrial without evidence submitted by Wallace. Some defendants had more than one case affected.
Buess said Wallace manipulated the machines instead of changing the reference sample every month and pocketed $146,000.
From 2002 until she was arrested in October 2008, Wallace handled DPS instruments that were used to determine alcohol concentration in DWI cases for at least seven police departments: League City, Friendswood, Webster, Seabrook, Galveston, Clute and South Houston.
Buess said Wallace signed off on about 4,000 test slips. Of those, some did not result in convictions and others were not in Harris County. Buess did not know how other counties would address the problem. The prosecutor was not optimistic about seeking 1,200 convictions again because the office will not have test results, and other evidence has been destroyed, including videotapes.
DPS officials invalidated all breath tests recorded by intoxilyzers under Wallace’s supervision because they could not pinpoint the date when her unethical behavior began.
“It’s just a massive problem that is not going to go away,” Buess said. “It’s a huge mess.”
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