For years, drivers throughout Florida have had DUI convictions based on false readings from defective alcohol breath test machines.
The problem was found by defense attorneys. They noticed that the machines (Intoxilyzer 8000) were reporting impossible results. For example, one machine reported that some drivers blew 10, 11, and even 12 liters of breath into the device. But humans have a maximum lung capacity of only about five liters.
This is important. Accurate measurement of the volume of air blown into the machine is essential for an accurate estimate of BAC. (BAC is blood alcohol concentration.)
A breath test is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence in DUI convictions. If a machine reports that a person’s BAC was above 0.08, Florida law requires that a jury assume the driver was guilty.
The defective machines were used for years. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) was responsible. State officials never tested a key component. Nor did they perform required reviews of breath tests.
After learning of the problem, FDLE quietly started fixing machines. They then returned them to service. Inspectors began the process of checking every machine in the state. They found that about 40% of the machines checked were defective.
Unfortunately, FDLE officials did not inform those who had DUI convictions based on the faulty machines. Many were victimized twice. First by the faulty machines. Second, by uncaring public officials who disregarded basic decency.
Don’t be a Victim
Protect yourself. Don’t become an innocent victim of a defective alcohol breath device. Or of callous government officials in any state.
To do so, don’t drink and drive. Use a designated driver, a cab, public transportation, or ask a friend to drive you home.
If you must drive after drinking, stay completely sober. Don’t get any DUI convictions.
- Remember that the typical beer, glass of dinner wine, or shot of spirits has the same amount of pure alcohol.
- Pace your drinking. The usual guideline is no more than a drink an hour.
- Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones.
- Eat food as you drink.
- Take your time. Sip your drinks. Enjoy their flavors and aromas.
- Don’t try to “keep up” with the drinking of others.
- Have a drink only when it’s consistent with your pacing schedule.
- Be very cautious with punch. Also with containers of unusual shape or size. It’s hard to judge their alcohol content. This makes it hard to pace them.
- Follow any medical advice about drinking with your medications.
Better safe than sorry. Avoid DUI convictions.
Ruger, T. Prosecutors drop breath-test machine evidence in 100 DUI cases. Herald-Tribune, Oct 12, 2011.
Gullberg, R. and Polissar, N. Factors contributingh to the variability observed in duplicate forensic breath alcohol measurement. J Breath Res, 2011, 5(1), 016004.
Martin, T. Evaluation of the Intoxilizer 8000C evidence breath alcohol analyzer. Canad Soc Foren Sci Jl, 2011, 44(1), 22-30.
Peach, R. Who tests the DUI test? Defense can’t; New Jersey won’t let lawyers inspect new breath tests. Nat Law J, 2000, 23(6), A4.
Rawls, E. The Intoxilyzer isn’t perfect. Judges in DWI trials must stand for justice despite pressure from public. Charlotte Observer, August 20, 2004.
Schechtman, E.. and Shinar, D. An analysis of alcohol breath tests results with portable and desktop breath testers as surrogates of bloodalcohol levels. Accid Analy Prev, 2011, 43(6), 2188-2194.
Taylor, L. Drunk Driving Defense. NY: Aspen, 2000. (Continually updated.)
Filed Under: Breathalyzer