Alcohol Ankle Device Faulty

Judge Dismisses Alcohol Claim Against Musician

Published – October, 18, 2005

Mark
O’Brien@PensacolaNewsJournal.com

See Article: Pensacola News Journal

Unconvinced of a device’s accuracy, an Escambia County judge dismissed
a claim that a musician drank alcohol in violation of his probation on a
DUI charge.

Judge William White dismissed the charge against Dennis Gossman, 51,
of Cantonment, the guitarist for a band that plays at a bar in Moss
Point, Miss.

Gossman had denied the device’s claim that he drank on several
occasions. His probation for DUI bans him from drinking alcohol for 12
months.

In his ruling, made public Monday, White cited concerns about the
fallibility of the device, which is strapped around the offender’s ankle
and measures vapors as they leave the body.

White noted that Gossman voluntarily took blood tests that showed he
had no alcohol in his system when the ankle device said he had been
drinking.

Gossman, who could have drawn 60 days in jail, also was supported by
several witnesses from the bar who said he did not drink. One drove him
to two police stations, where officers refused his request for a
breathalyzer test to show he had not been drinking.

White said defense attorney Tommy Ratchford may have been correct in
hypothesizing that this could be a fluke in the device.

While the technology usually works, “the unique combination of
environmental factors, including the defendant’s playing of an electric
guitar, may have had some unexpected impact,” just as radio waves can
interfere with breath tests, White wrote.

The ankle device periodically messages Alcohol Monitoring Systems to
report any signs of alcohol. The firm monitors thousands of people in 30
states.

In the past year, the machine has accused 10 local probationers. Only
Gossman denied the claim.

Its inventor, Jeffrey Hawthorne, said it had virtually no “false
positives” despite thousands of tests.

Still, White said, Gossman’s battles may not be over.

The judge said a probation officer could ask that he get a different
job because the machine can’t assure Gossman complies with the
no-drinking rule.

Mark O’Brien wrote a column on Dennis Gossman’s violation of probation
hearing on his DUI charge on Oct. 8. To see that column, visit www.PensacolaNewsJournal.com. Click on “Local News”
and click on the icon with “Mark O’Brien: Columnist.”

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