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Investigation launched after police reuse breath test straws

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Posted at 10:03 PM, Jan 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-16 00:03:30-05

CEDAR CITY, Utah – The Iron County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after an incident of alleged breathalyzer misuse.

Cedar City Police administrators said the incident involved three officers who responded to help Iron County Sheriff deputies break up a party New Year’s Eve.

There were more than 100 people at the party, many of whom were underage. Allegedly, in an effort to find out who had been drinking, the officers reused breath test straws.

“Some of the party-goers were given the option of reusing the portable breath test straw," said Cedar City Police Sergeant Jimmy Roden. “To help expedite the process of everyone taking the test and being released.”

Roden said that’s not a standard practice, and they’ve launched their own investigation into the way officers are trained. He said this appears to be an isolated incident.

“We’ll use it as a training tool,” Roden said. “Just make sure our officers understand the best practices with the use of the PBT (Portable Breath Test).”

But in some regards, the damage may be done. Reusing the straw could contaminate results, meaning that evidence is inadmissible in court. If that’s the case, county prosecutors would be forced to drop charges for those booked on that evidence alone.

“There’s a sanitation issue there, there’s an evidentiary issue there,” Roden said. “And while none of the persons who used a straw more than once were charged with a crime, it is a practice that we don’t condone and we don’t teach.”

Calls to the Iron County Sheriff’s Office were not returned Wednesday, but their investigation into the incident is ongoing.