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Breathalyzers under fire

Breathalyzers under fire

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- One of the most popular machines used by police in Ohio for determining if drivers arrested for OVI are drunk is coming under fire.

Columbus defense attorney Tim Huey believes a case he was involved with could put a stop to use of the Inoxilyzer 8000. In the case, heard in Marietta Municipal Court, retired Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Teresa Liston told Huey the burden of proof that the machine was flawed would be on his client and not the state.

"We were able to show through expert testimony that the machine results, to her satisfaction, show that they do not produce reliable results," Huey said.

He believes that the case will be appealed all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court. While this criminal case only impacts his client, he thinks there could actually be a ripple effect.

"There's got to be hundreds if not thousands of cases pending where the person blew into one of these machines," he said.

The state purchased $7 million-worth of the machines in 2009.

This is the latest ruling against the machines. In 2011, an Athens County judge ruled that radio interference from cell phones can skew the machine's results. It can also show higher blood-alcohol levels if the suspect blows into the machine for a longer period of time, according to the ruling. A month earlier a Pickaway County judge decided not to allow results from the machines until the state could prove they were scientifically valid. Last year law enforcement officers in Cincinnati were ordered not to use the device until the courts sorted out the situation.

"This is kind of the beginning of the end for these Intoxilyzer 8000s. I think that they're going to have to move on to different machines," Huey said.

However, the Ohio Department of Health defends the machines.

"98 percent of the appellate rulings are in favor of the state and they do deem the I-8000 a reliable instrument," said ODH spokesperson Tessie Pollock.

She says there are about 400 of the machines deployed throughout Ohio. She says it was chosen because it has undergone extensive testing both at the state and federal level. Huey argues it was chosen because it has a handle.

"We're confident that the use of the breath alcohol testing instruments helps to reduce impaired driving and saves lives in Ohio," Pollock said.

Similar challenges to the machines have been filed in Tennessee and Florida.

 

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