Attorney questions DUI breathalyzer accuracy - FOX 13 News

Attorney questions DUI breathalyzer accuracy

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Could it be that dozens and dozens of people facing DUI charges in Hillsborough county may have not been drunk in the first place?

That's the big legal question two Hillsborough County judges faced on Friday.

At issue is a breath-alcohol testing machine that has been used by law enforcement for years, but is now in the legal hot seat. It's called the Intoxilyzer 8000.

Defense Attorney Eilam Isaak is challenging the DUI machines' reliability.

He says the breathalyzer's "flow sensors" are producing impossible results.

"The machine was recording volumes that were possible for a human being to achieve," Isaak said.

Issak says the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which oversees the breathalyzer machines, knew there was a problem for years, but failed to properly test the machines or do anything about it.

"They have a procedure, they don't use it on a regular basis, and we're saying that they should," Isaac said.

Laura Barfield with the FDLE took the stand Friday. She testified that the machines are accurate. She says if the "flow sensor" does not accurately calibrate how much air a driver blows into the machine, it rejects the results.

"At the end of the three minutes, depending on what parameter wasn't met last, you will get a message and that sample is not be counted," Barfield said.

State records show the breath machines, which had flaws, stayed in the system for years, unquestioned.

State rules do not require inspectors to test the flow sensor, but Isaak wants to change that.

"If I point out that the police are deficient in some fashion, then that just means that they're doing their job better in the future," Isaak said.

The DUI breath machines were also challenged in Sarasota, but that challenge was struck down by a panel of judges.

Here in Hillsborough County, it may take a few weeks for the two judges to rule on this motion.

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