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Court Finds Intoxilyzer 8000 Breath Alcohol Machine Unreliable Evidence

An Ohio municipal court has recently decided a critical case in the war on the Intoxilyzer 8000 in Ohio.  In State v. Chelsea Lancaster, decided just last week, the Court found the Intoxilyzer 8000 breath alcohol machine to be unreliable scientific evidence — and struck evidence of the breath tests as a result.

The case involved several consolidated cases involving several defendants challenging the reliability of the Intoxilyzer 8000 breath alcohol machine following their arrests for OVI.  In each case, the defendants sought to exclude the results of their breath test on the basis that the machine is unreliable.

In a case that might be headed for the Ohio Supreme Court, the judge granted the defendants’ motion, finding the Intoxilyzer 8000 unreliable and excluding the results of the tests at trial.   The court ruled that the defense is in fact permitted to challenge the ability of the breath test machine to produce correct results (a result that is in conflict with some prior court rulings on this issue).

In Lancaster, the defense presented multiple expert witnesses demonstrating that the Intoxilyzer 8000 did not–at the time it was used–produce scientifically reliable results.  The decision does note, however, that due to “ongoing software changes” and “additional research and testing” the Intoxilyzer 8000 could, at some point, meet the appropriate reliability standards in a future case.

Specifically, the defense experts argued that:

(1) The Intoxilyzer 8000 has not been tested for and designed to address radio frequency interference from smartphones and wiriness networks.  The machine was designed to detect signals from police radios — but not from recently developed smartphones and wireless networks.

(2) The machine is subject to operator manipulation that can lead to inaccurate results.  For example, the longer you blow into the machine past the “100% sample” mark, the higher the BAC measured.  Thus, an officer could manipulate the sample by having a suspect blow into the machine beyond a 100% sample.   In fact, one of the experts testified that he trains officers on how to administer the tests, and teaches them to instruct suspects to “take a deep breath and blow into the instrument for as long as they can without reference to the 100% sample display.”

(3) The Intoxilyzer 8000 fails to filter substances, such as mouth alcohol, out of breath samples.   For example, when mouth alcohol is present, it can falsely elevate the result.

Taking these arguments into consideration, the court ruled that the Intoxilyzer 8000 is in fact unreliable.  Indeed, the only scientific testing of the machine has been done by law enfacement — not not by any independent agency.

This is a very significant ruling and we will continue to follow this case and others like it as they progress through the court of appeals and to the Ohio Supreme Court.