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Breathalyzer Testing Questioned Again in Florida

Published: 2010-2-24

Article provided by Ferrer & Gonzalez, PL

Breathalyzer testing is coming under fire again – this time in Florida, where several hundred cases in Palm Beach County are being called into question. Lawyers challenging the DUI accusations are focusing their attack on a specific breathalyzer model, the Intoxilyzer 8000, which is the only machine approved for use in Florida.

Utilized by law enforcement agencies across the country, this isn’t the first time the Intoxilyzer 8000 has come under fire. This time around, DUI defense attorneys are focusing their attacks on the fact that the breathalyzer machines don’t seem to be legal under Florida law.

Under state law, Florida’s breathalyzers must match those approved by the federal government. According to those challenging the use of this device, the Intoxilyzer 8000 does not meet this criterion, though state officials have claimed the discrepancy is due to a simple, typographical error in the evaluation.

Defense lawyers are also claiming that there is evidence showing law enforcement tampered with the inspection of devices – alleging that personnel covered up failed tests regarding the accuracy of breathalyzer readings.

Again, these accusations are not a first.

In 2008, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement dismissed an examiner who was in charge of testing all breathalyzer machines in Miami-Dade County for “failing to follow protocol.”

Prior to dismissal, the employee had engaged in, and encouraged, the practice of unplugging Intoxilyzer 8000 machines when they gave questionable results. By unplugging the machines and then plugging them back in, the examiner was able to prevent errors from being reported.

In addition to the fired examiner in Miami-Dade, police officers in both Palm Beach County and Boynton Beach were found to have tampered with breathalyzer results.

Given that this inspector was responsible for overseeing the testing of all breathalyzer machines in the county, it is reasonable to infer that malfunctioning breathalyzer machines were used in some places to help convict accused DUI offenders. As such, defense lawyers asked the Miami judge to order an examination of every Intoxilyzer 8000 hard drive in the county.

This time around, DUI defense attorneys are worried, again, that there is faulty data out there being used to pin crimes on innocent citizens.

Law enforcement agencies have almost uniformly dismissed the accusations as baseless. However, it’s worth noting that at least two of these dismissals have come from agencies which were found to have tampered with breathalyzer tests in 2008.

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