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Problems mount for Florida breathalyzer machine

Anomalies lead judges to order company to hand over device’s software

A breathalyzer machine used to obtain evidence against many Florida drivers accused of drunk driving is running into major problems. A panel of judges in Orange County recently ordered the company behind the Intoxilyzer 8000 to hand over its source code to DUI defense attorneys, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The order comes after the judges noted that the machine has delivered a number of anomalous results. Similar cases in other states are also raising questions about the device’s reliability.

Anomalous results

The panel of judges said defense attorneys should be given greater access to the software that makes the Intoxilyzer 8000 function. Critics have long said that the device is prone to error, including by human operators and temperature. So far, the company behind the device says its source code is a trade secret and has resisted efforts to force it to grant access to it.

The judges noted that although most results produced by the devices appear to be accurate, anomalies were nonetheless present. In one case, for example, a machine recorded that a man had blown 15 liters into the machine, an amount that is physically impossible. The judges claimed that such results indicated further scrutiny of the machines is needed, especially given that the evidence they produce is often cited in convicting people of impaired driving.

Problems in Ohio

The problems with the Intoxilyzer 8000 are not limited to Florida. Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the state health department to hand over data collected by the devices to attorneys representing DUI defendants, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The defendants say they want access to the information in order to challenge the DUI charges against them.

The health department, however, has resisted efforts to make it hand over the information. Critics say the department is trying to avoid releasing embarrassing information that could raise further doubts about the reliability of the Intoxilyzer 8000.

DUI charges

As the above cases show, people charged with a DUI should not assume that they will be automatically convicted, even if a breath-test records a high alcohol content level in their systems. Breathalyzer machines are prone to mistakes, including human error.

People charged with impaired driving should call a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney will help his client understand his legal rights when facing a DUI charge and will also begin collecting evidence that could help challenge such a charge, including potential problems with any alcohol breath-testing devices.