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Mike Bryant
Mike Bryant
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The Court Battle Over the Intoxilyzer 5000 Continues

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The on-going battle between criminal defense attorneys and the State of Minnesota regarding the use of the Intoxilyzer 5000 machines finally came to a head recently in court. There are currently over 4,000 cases in the State of Minnesota in which attorneys are challenging the scientific validity and accuracy of these machines. On December 8, 2010, the final hearings began in front of Hon. Judge Abrams. The State has long fought against defense attorneys having access to the source codes for Intoxilyzer machines to determine their accuracy. Pursuant to a suit in Federal Court, experts hired by defense attorneys have finally been given access to see how these machines really work and to determine their accuracy.

According to the expert testimony provided at the hearing, the Intoxilyzer does not accurately, validly or reliably report alcohol to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. The experts reached these conclusions based upon their analysis. Some of their findings include the Intoxilyzer does not report the measurement error; software “rounding” is a cause of “deficient samples”; the machine doesn’t detect radio frequency interference except under very limited conditions; the hardware and errors and omissions in the source code produces unpredictable results.

The experts also found bugs in the system. These bugs affect the reliability of the machines. One of the bugs results in a sample size error which overestimates by 50%. This bug results in test results being twice as high as they should be. As a result of these inaccurate results, people are being charged with DUIs when they were not in fact above the legal limit; people are facing far more serious charges, vehicle forfeiture, more jail time and longer revocation of their driver’s licenses than they legally should have had.

Yet another bug results in false restarts. In this case, the machine initiates a false restart and prevents the proper functioning of the mouth alcohol detector. Police have been using this type of situation to argue that people are “playing games” and not really blowing into the mouthpiece, resulting in more serious charges of test refusal and longer jail and revocation time frames. The experts even found a bug in which clean air produces alcohol readings.

The bottom line argument being made by criminal defense attorneys is that the Intoxilyzer 5000 with its current source code does not ensure test results that are valid, reliable and accurate. All of these problems only intensify an individual’s need to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney if they are charged with a DUI.