Are Breathalyzer Tests Unreliable in Florida?

An interesting story out of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about Florida’s DUI cases which have traditionally relied on the breath test machine, the Intoxilyzer 8000, to check whether or not a driver measures a blood alcohol level above 0.08 percent, the legal limit for intoxication.

State officials never ran accuracy tests on the machines which have been in service since 2006, and now judges and attorneys have found the machines are miscalibrated, raising questions about whether thousands of DUI charges should stick.

This year, the machines are finally being checked and 40 percent have flunked in that they incorrectly measure the amount of breath flow. While an average person has a capacity of about five liters, the machines would measure up to 12 liters of breath, also increasing the reading on blood-alcohol levels. An accurate breath reading is supposed to be the key to obtaining a quality sample to test for DUI. Those who may have been wrongfully convicted of DUI have not been notified by the state, but the flawed machines have reportedly been recalibrated and put back into service.

In Venice, Florida, a county judge said the results from the test are unreliable and prosecutors are reaching out to DUI defendants. Juries are acquitting defendants in Florida drunk driving accident cases after hearing about the machine problems.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) stands by the test results, but it has spent more than $2,000 to test the equipment. The Intoxilyzer 8000’s software will be tweaked if the state can acquire $20,000 in funding and FDLE will be required to do a check on the readings.