Thursday, July 01, 2010

Intoxilyzer breath test results under fire in Minnesota

Test resultsImage by OregonDOT via Flickr

In Minnesota, we learn of yet another case of allegations regarding inaccurate breath test results. The Intoxilyzer machine at issue has been regularly used by law enforcement throughout Minnesota for years, but came under fire in 2006 when a DUI defendant challenged the accuracy of the test. Since that time, the Minnesota Supreme Court has twice considered claims challenging the device. Later, in 2008, the state sued CMI, Inc., the manufacturer the device, seeking access to the machine's source code. CMI resisted at first, but ultimately relented and allowed DUI attorneys access to the information. Now, there are more than 2000 cases pending in state courts that challenge accuracy of the machines, which were recently consolidated. As reported in this article, a 2006 email from a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension toxicologist is key evidence in support of the claims in the consolidated cases that the devices produce inaccurate results:

In an e-mail dated Sept. 27, 2006, a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension toxicologist alerted CMI that the Intoxilyzer "on occasion" printed out blood-alcohol readings different from what it displayed on its screen.

He also noted that the amount of air required for a breath sample varies depending on the version of software running the machine.

The minimal amount of air necessary to provide a breath sample is 1.1 liters of air blown at .17 liters per second. But if a driver blows too hard, the minimum sample required increases to 4.1 liters, according to the toxicologist's e-mail.

"The minimum value quadrupled," Sheridan said. "And by doing that, it would exclude about 80 percent of women. ... The shorter and older you are, you're virtually guaranteed you'd be unable to provide a sample."

The misfires are recorded as test refusals, and that can have disastrous legal consequences. Punishments for test refusals are in some cases more severe than the penalties for drunken driving.

Once again, arguably faulty breath test machines continue to be used despite clear evidence that they may produce inaccurate and misleading results. If people's liberty wasn't at stake, perhaps this egregious conduct could be overlooked. However, where people arguably innocent of a crime are being wrongfully convicted and, in some cases, sent to jail, ignoring the glaring problem with the Intoxilyzer's used in Minnesota simply isn't an option. Visit Americas Top DUI and DWI Attorneys at or call 1-800-DIAL-DUI to find a DUI OUI DWI Attorney Lawyer Now!
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