Houston DWI “BAT” Vans—A Timeline

 Posted on October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

(A chronology of Breath Alcohol Testing, or BAT, Vans in Houston. To be updated as more information comes in. If you have a suggestion for the timeline, please leave it in the comments.)

November 2007: Houston City Council approves $250,000 expenditure for six "BAT Lab" vans (in February 2008 the story was at <>; it is no longer).

20 November 2010: An HPD BAT Van is working the Renaissance Festival.

18 February 2011: Houston criminal-defense lawyer Paul Kennedy asks:

[H]ow much testing is performed to determine whether moving the machine from location to location affects its ability to do whatever the hell it's supposed to do? How much testing is performed to determine if the communications systems in the BATmobiles interferes with the machine's innards? How much testing is performed to determine if the machines are affected by the ambient air both inside the van and outside in the real world? More importantly, has the (pseudo)scientific director of the DPS approved this new initiative?

28 February 2011: BAT Vans are operating on Washington Avenue.

1 March 2011 / 2 March 2011: KTRK-13 reporter Wayne Dolcefino does a two-part story on BAT vans, which cost the city $600,000 rather than the $250,000 approved in November 2007, which have air-conditioning and electrical problems that can affect the usefulness of the breath-test machines, and which spend much of their time sitting unused-one van didn't "process" a single driver in ten months.

28 July 2011: HPD Chemist Amanda Culberson testifies that "she [and two other chemists] quit because she could not trust the accuracy of breath alcohol tests from the department's testing vans." She testifies that she "reported the problems to [HPD lab boss Irma] Rios, who was in her 'chain of command.'" 8 September 2011: First Assistant DA Jim Leitner says, "we have no concerns about the accuracy and reliability of breath alcohol testing conducted in the HPD BAT vans when the tests are administered in accordance with scientific protocol." Houston criminal-defense lawyer Mark Thiessen says, "There's a problem with these machines, and the district attorney's office is reluctant to tell us about it."

4 October 2011: Amanda Culberson's new employer, Lone Star College, loses its contract with Harris County, apparently at Pat Lykos's behest. Lawyers suspect retaliation against Culberson.

18 October 2011: The grand jury for the 185th District Court kicks prosecutors Carl Hobbs, Steve Morris, and John Barnhill out of the grand jury room and questions a witness, criminal-defense lawyer (and former head of the Harris County DA's vehicular-crimes section) Brent Mayr with no prosecutors present (see State's Petition for Mandamus).

19 October 2011: The 14th Court of Appeals denies Pat Lykos's petition for mandamus to require a prosecutor in the grand jury room and request for emergency stay (filed that day).

24 October 2011: In an interview with Ted Oberg, Pat Lykos says that she's done trusting HPD to tell her the truth about DWI testing.

25 October 2011: The grand jury asks for a special prosecutor, and for an extension of its term. 26 October 2011: Judge Susan Brown appoints Stephen St. Martin and Jim Mount as special prosecutors.

27 October 2011: The grand jury subpoenas multiple current and former ADAs.

27 October 2011: Judge Clinton, County Criminal Court at Law Number Four, rules that the defense can introduce a recording of Lykos's interview in a DWI case. Judge Susan Brown extends the grand jury's term until February 2012.

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