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Derry DUI investigations getting help

Derry police will be receiving new portable breath testing equipment that can help officers in DUI investigations, after town councilors recently approved the proposal.

Councilors voted 7-0 last week to have the town apply for the acceptance of the equipment, valued at $3,200, from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission.

Derry Police Chief Ed Garone, who presented the item to the councilors, said the devices are needed because they can act as a tool to guide police in helping to identify people under the influence of alcohol.

During questioning from councilors, Garone said the devices are not used as an evidentiary component, but to establish probable cause.

Council Chairman Mark Osborne said he has done some research on the equipment and found that courts across the country have had some trouble with the reliability of the devices. He then asked Garone how much weight the department places on results that the machines arrive at.

Garone used an analogy to answer Osborne, comparing the devices to polygraph machines or lie detectors. He said it’s common knowledge that results from a polygraph tests can’t be used in court; and it’s also the same with the breath testing equipment.

“As you know and many people know, it can’t be used in court,” Garone said. “But it’s a pointer; it directs the investigation, perhaps in which way we go.”

As examples, Garone said if the breath test indicates no alcohol or a low alcohol level, the officer will look in another direction, possibly checking for drugs. But if there is a level of alcohol detected, the officer would employ standard sobriety tests, the chief said.

The council then voted to approve the process for beginning to accept the 10 portable devices that are valued at $100 each. Garone estimated the cost of supplies for the machines, such as mouth pieces and batteries, would total approximately $380. He said the supplies would last about five years.

Before casting his vote, Osborne said Garone had persuaded him to vote “yes.”

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