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Inaccurate Breath Testing Results Dropped as Evidence in 100 Florida DUI Cases

October 14, 2011

Florida prosecutors have decided that the breath test results in about 100 pending DUI cases will not be included as evidence after it was revealed that faulty devices were producing inaccurate measurements.

alcohol-breath-test

Florida prosecutors have decided that the breath test results in about 100 pending DUI cases in Sarasota and Manatee counties will not be included as evidence after it was revealed that faulty devices were producing inaccurate measurements.

Last Saturday, the Sarasota County Herald-Tribune reported that the Intoxilyzer 8000s was incorrectly measuring the flow of breath that was going into these devices. The following day, the state attorney’s office began reviewing the hundreds of DUI cases that may be affected by the problematic devices.

According to the Herald-Tribune article, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement began fixing the flawed devices back in January before putting them back into service. However, they failed to record how far off the measurements were, and did not notify those who may have been wrongfully convicted or punished as a result of flawed testing.

In order to work correctly, breath-testing devices must accurately measure breath volume. The first 1.1 liters of breath typically comes from the esophagus, throat, and mouth; a sample this small may produce artificially inflated results. If the breath-testing machine measures the first liter of breath as two liters, the device is reading a bad sample. On the other hand, if the device reads that one liter of breath has entered the device, when in reality it was two, officials could determine that the driver refused to provide enough breath volume. This could result in an automatic loss of a person’s driver’s license.

Inspectors have checked 231 Intoxilyzer 8000s machines so far, and found that 40 percent of them are not working properly. They may have been in service for as long as five years because state officials have not sufficiently tested the devices within that time period.

One of the faulty Intoxilyzer 8000s machines was located at Sarasota County’s South County jail in Venice and has been ruled unreliable by a county judge. This device reported that driver’s with an estimated maximum lung capacity of five liters blew up to 12 liters of breath into the device. The breath test results will not be used in about 50 of the 230 current DUI cases that involve use of this particular machine.

Prosecutors will not use breath-testing results as evidence in 32 other Sarasota County DUI cases. These cases involved the use of three devices, two that were kept in patrol cars and used by officers out on duty, in addition to one backup machine.

In total, the flawed machines affect about one in three pending DUI cases in Sarasota County.

In Manatee County, prosecutors are still trying to determine how many pending DUI cases the faulty machines involve. According to Assistant State Attorney Heather Doyle, very few cases will be affected, as the only flawed machine in use was a backup device.

The 12th Circuit State Attorney’s Office is now sending out letters to defendants that were tested on the faulty machines; the letters state that the machines were not working correctly and the breath testing evidence against them will be dropped from their cases.

Sarasota County DUI defense attorneys were the first to raise concerns about the implausible breath testing results; they are currently pushing to have all cases involving the Intoxilyzer 8000s, past and present, overturned or dropped.

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