Last week was remarkable because it produced separate rulings from judges in Ohio and Arizona on the reliability of machines used to prosecute defendants for driving while intoxicated.

In Ohio, 8 separate defendants challenged ther reliability of the Intoxilyzer 8000. The cases were consolidated, and judge Teresa Liston was appointed to preside over the cases. After conducting a five day  hearing she concluded:

“not scientifically reliable and the court, as a gatekeeper against unscientific evidence, must prohibit them from being introduced as evidence in this case.”

The Intoxilyzer 8000 is a newer machine, and is not used everywhere. Ohio started using them in 2009. Lawyers challenged the reliability of the machines claiming heat, humidity and other factors could skew the results.

Meanwhile, in Arizona 11 defendants challenged the results of their blood tests. The blood was tested using a gas chromatograph. Numerous hearings were held, which went over 17 days. Attorneys were able to point out numerous mechanical issues and failures, which were not adequately addressed. During the proceedings, several emails were uncovered by the Arizona Republic, which showed that lab officials and company officials were not comfortable with the reliability of the machines. As often happens, those concerns were never passed on to defense attorneys.

Both these cases show what can be accomplished by diligent and competent lawyers. You cannot accept test results at face value, but must dig deeper.That requires knowing what to look for, because these records are rarely included in the prosecutor's file. While not all tests are invalid, you are never going to know whether yours is one unless a complete investigation is conducted.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.
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