Breathalyzer Test Results Often Challenged in Massachusetts Drunk Driving Defense

Authorities in Florida are facing higher costs of prosecuting DUI offenders because of questionable breath test results and aggressive defense of clients tested by the Intoxilizer 8000.

Massachusetts DUI defense attorneys know how unreliable breathalyzer tests can be. Currently, high-profile examples include Washington D.C. (authorities quit using their machines altogether), California (thousands of cases are being reviewed or dismissed because of questionable test results) and Florida, where judges have ruled that a defendant’s right to confront his accuser permits defense lawyers to review the computer code that generates the Intoxilizer results.
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CMI Inc., the Kentucky manufacturer of the machine, continues to ignore subpoenas to turn over the computer code — a move that has forced prosecutors to hire experts to testify in contested DUI cases.

Fighting a DUI charge in Massachusetts
can be done on any number of fronts: Reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop can be questioned, as can the basis for ordering you from the car to request that you submit to field sobriety examinations. And the results of those tests can be challenged — as can the training and conduct of officers involved. As this issue illustrates, simply challenging your case may be enough to induce the state to offer you a deal to move your case through the system. Discussing your options with an experienced criminal defense attorney at the earliest possible stage of your case is the best option for a successful resolution.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports the cost is about $3,000 for an expert’s flight from Georgia, cost of the hotel, and two days of testimony. That might buy prosecutors resolution on four or five cases — less than a week’s worth. Costs for the year could total $156,000. The five-year battle over the Intoxilizer 8000 has caused prosecutors to drop cases, offer pleas to lesser charges and take other actions to move cases through the system.

Nor can departments go buy another machine — the Intoxilier is the only machine approved for use by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

As we recently reported on our Massachusetts DUI Attorney Blog, police in Washington D.C. were told to abandon use of the breathalyzer altogether after a whistleblower came forward to claim the machines were not producing accurate results.

Instead, police are using urine samples. Defense lawyers and the police union report cases are routinely being dismissed.

The breathalyzers had not been officially certified and may not have been producing accurate results since 2008.

In California, the Supreme Court issued a ruling earlier this summer that makes it easier for those charged with drunk driving to challenge breathalyzer results, according to the L.A. Times.

In the unanimous decision, the court ruled defendants can present evidence to show the breathalyzer failed to accurately reflect blood alcohol levels.

Massachusetts DUI Defense Attorney Michael DelSignore has offices conveniently located in Stoughton, Attleboro, New Bedford and Westborough.

Call (508) 455-4755 for a free consultation, 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays.


Additional Resources

Cost of DUI trials could mount, by Todd Ruger, Herald Tribune.

Massachusetts OUI Lawyer explains drunk driving defenses based on police training, Massachusetts DUI Attorney Blog, Aug. 26, 2011.

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