Since an important ruling in 2008, breath results taken for suspected drunk drivers have been barred from courtrooms across the metro Orlando area. For years now, that has made it easier for those charged with drunk driving in the right counties to avoid conviction, something that has led a group of assistant state attorneys to challenge the ban. This fight is expected to culminate in a ruling by a panel of Orange County judges who will decide whether the ban should remain in effect.
The issue surrounds the use of the Intoxilyzer 8000, a machine that has been embraced by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and law enforcement agencies in many other states. The problem with the Intoxilyzer, according to many defense attorneys, is that the software used to manufacture the device may be seriously flawed and can lead to inaccurate results, sometimes wildly off the mark.
When the defense lawyers were challenging the use of the Intoxilyzer back in 2008, they pointed to data collected by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement itself; data that showed the Intoxilyzer 8000 couldn’t always be trusted. Some readings showed a person breathing 10 or 11 liters of air in one test, a volume of air that no human would be capable of producing. Another test showed that the alcohol content of an ordinary room’s air was three times the legal limit, an impossible figure.
Though law enforcement officials admit that there are occasionally problems with the breath-testing machine, they continue to stand by its reliability, saying that the devices are put through intense testing rituals designed to guarantee accuracy. Despite the assurances, judges in a number of counties ultimately decided the results could not be trusted. That’s why the breath test results have been kept out of courtrooms in Osceola and Orange counties. In Seminole County, FL, the results are only occasionally allowed into evidence, while courts in Brevard, Volusia and Lake counties stand by the validity of the tests.
All the differences lead to confusion among prosecutors and defense attorneys in the area, something that can cause wildly different results depending on the exact location of the person’s arrest. To make things more uniform, a challenge has been brought in Orange County regarding the ban on the devices. If the panel of Orange County judges chooses to reverse its position, many believe that other metro Orlando counties will fall in line. If not, changes might be in store elsewhere.
The two sides squared off back in December of 2013 and those in the know say that the panel is close to issuing its ruling. The sticking point is that the company behind the Intoxilyzer 8000 says it will not release its software for analysis and review, claiming that doing so would jeopardize valuable trade secrets. Defense attorneys say that without a chance to review the software, there’s no way to know for sure that the equipment is reliable. Expect criminal defense lawyers across Florida and the country to be interested in the outcome of the case.
Source: “Breath tests banned from courtrooms in DUI cases,” published at ClickOrlando.com.