A panel of Orange County judges recently approved DUI Orlando attorneys request to access the software that is used in a popular police tool―the Intoxilyzer 8000. The judges ruled that there were significant and continued anomalies in the results presented by the breath analyzer, and as such the DUI Orlando attorneys had every right to have access specially when investigating facts in relation to a DUI case they are involved in.
Much touted; much maligned
The Intoxilyzer 8000 is a device used by Florida’s law enforcement agencies to determine the blood alcohol level in field tests. The Intoxilyzer is a slightly modified version of the traditional breathe analyzer that is used to test drivers suspected of alcohol abuse, and caught when driving drunk. The device was sanctioned by the state of Florida in March of 2006, but it has not had an error-free run.
In fact the anomalies in breath-analysis tests have been so evident that DUI attorneys have even demanded that the device be replaced. The Orange County ruling is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Intoxilyzer and the Florida state police that had so vehemently backed its inclusion in the police force.
Several litigations and arguments later, DUI Orlando attorneys finally have access to the device’s software and source code. These two together govern the functioning of the equipment. The ruling, which came on September 22nd, allows the DUI attorneys who are part of a trial access to the device’s software so that they can pinpoint errors made during their client’s breath analysis tests.
Just how erroneous the Intoxilyzer can get is made clear by this following example. In one instance in the Seminole County Sherriff’s Office, an Intoxilyzer device reported that the suspect had blown 15 liters of breath. This is just not humanly possible! The trio of judges also called the Intoxilyzer a “magic black box” and noted that there have been many strange results obtained while testing with this device.
And people are being convicted based on this unreliable device? Many people are bewildered by this.
If you are going to convict someone, the evidence must be reliable.
While a large percentage of the tests done using the Intoxilyzer show no anomalies – a fact noted by the judges as well – it is not good enough when a citizen’s liberty is at risk. Merely saying that the device “mostly works” is an insufficient response to the problems that have occurred because of it. Taking note of instances such as the one in Seminole, the panel ruled that DUI defense attorneys are “owed” access to software that makes the device tick. The panel’s ruling provides access to all past versions of the software that have been used since 2006, within 21 days of the order.
But the fight is far from over. Stuart Hyman, one of the defense attorneys, who was a part of the evidence fight, says that it is unclear how the software access sharing will occur now. CMI Inc., the company that manufactures the Intoxilyzer, considers the source code a trade secret and has refused to release it so far. Another fight and another complaint may be forthcoming as defense attorneys try to get to the bottom of the magical mystery box that has had everyone in a fix.