Iowa breath alcohol Web site back after month-long absence

Some changes made to protect defendants' right to fair trial

Published: October 5 2012 | 6:55 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 1:31 am in
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After a month of being offline, a state-launched Web site that allows the public to search for breath alcohol test results was back online Thursday afternoon.

The site, http://breathalcohol.iowa.gov, was taken down roughly a month ago, primarily because of fears that the easily accessible information could violate a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Before the site was taken down, it contained the date of birth and case number for each defendant. According to Iowa County Attorney’s Association Executive Director Corwin Ritchie, by removing the date of birth and case numbers column, the site should now be in the clear.

“I think what the issue was in some small counties, where there are very few breath tests being done, it would be very easy to put two and two together and figure out who it was,” said criminalist Jim Bleskacek of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

After getting approval from the Attorney General’s Office and Governor Terry Branstad, Bleskacek said the site should be up for good. However, the site still has some bugs to work out. As conceived, the site has data from June 2010 to the present, totaling about 40,000 breath alcohol tests. But after the site went live Thursday afternoon, Bleskacek noticed not all the records were available.

“It looks like when it went back up, there was no new data since September 20,” Bleskacek said Thursday. “But hopefully it will be resolved in the next 24 hours.”

Bleskacek added that the average blood alcohol test result has been 0.147, nearly double the legal limit -- an average that's been consistent for decades.

“The goal of the Web site  is to show we have a serious drinking and driving problem in the state,” Bleskacek said. “We advertised in the media and radio that officers are looking for you and you’re going to get pulled over. And this site was meant to be back that statement up.”

“We have a problem, and I wanted to show it,” Bleskacek said.

“You’re driving on the same roads as these people are and are just as likely of passing them on the road, or unfortunately, having them run head on into you. We can only enforce so much, and public awareness is something and that is what this site is meant to do.”

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