Investigator: Breathalyzer found to be inaccurate, unreliable

11:48 PM, Aug 1, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- About five years ago, the State of Ohio decided it needed to upgrade the machine used to do breath tests of people suspected of driving while intoxicated.

Using a federal grant of more than $6 million, the Ohio Department of Health bought more than 700 units of a machine called The Intoxilyzer 8000, and made them available to local law enforcement and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Only one problem, some lawyers say. The Intoxilyxer 8000 doesn't work very well.

Some recent court cases show that some judges agree.

In a case that came before the Painesville Municipal Court in June, Judge Michael Cicconetti ruled that "the results of the Intoxylizer 8000 will not be admissable in this case" and that the machine "does not appear to be shown to be accurate and reliable in the courts of Ohio."

About a dozen judges in Ohio have made similar rulings in the past few years, citing that the breathalyzer machine makes innaccurate readings at times and the software used to run the machine often fails.

"This is a pretty frightening machine," said criminal defense lawyer Joseph Patituce.

But the drunk driving arrest numbers are even more frightening. Last year, the Ohio State Highway Patrol arrested more than 36,000 for OVI and drunk drivers killed more than 400 people.

"I've had clients who have blown into the machine and the results have an alcohol level so high they would be dead," Patituce said.

"When someone is charged with driving while intoxicated, it is a very serious matter. We think the evidence used should be relaible."

The state has defended the machine, saying it has held up to scrutiny in studies by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But in none of the appeal cases has a represenatative of the state department of health nor the manufacturer -- Kentucky-based CMI -- testified to its authenticity.

"This is just criminal defense lawyers making an issue where there is none," said CMI spokesman Alan Trigg.

The result is questions by judges and a patchwork system where one breathalyzer machine is used in one locality, while another is used in the next city over.

Since the Painesville ruling, a number of cities in Lake County have suspended use of the Intozilyzer 8000 until the courts sort out whether its results can be used as evidence in court.

"The state should never have changed the machines because the old system worked just fine," said attorney Kenneth Bossin.

"And this isn't about a bunch of lawyers trying to keep drunk drivers on the road. This is about the state spending millions of dollars on a machine that doesn't work right and is unreliable."


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