MANATEE — Sheriff’s offices plan a DUI checkpoint tonight using a breath-test machine local judges ruled does not meet state standards.
The checkpoint, which is part of increased traffic enforcement kicking off the Labor Day weekend, is scheduled to start at 10 p.m. and last through 3 a.m. Saturday near the county line.
Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is coordinating the operation with other law enforcement agencies assisting, including the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
“Certain breath samples were ruled inadmissible in the court but we continue to use the instrument as a tool for the apprehension of impaired drivers,” said Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Wendy Rose. “It’s one of the many ways we compile a case against an individual. ... Our goal is to get impaired drivers off the road and make it safer for the rest of us who make wise choices.”
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Manatee and Sarasota counties continue to use the Intoxilyzer 8000 despite the orders issued by Sarasota Judge David Denkin and Manatee County Judges Doug Henderson and Robert Farrance, which concluded there were discrepancies in the technical specifications for the machines used in the local DUI cases, as provided by the manufacturer.
There was “compelling evidence” that the Intoxilyzer, while approved by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, was not the version approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, as required by state law, according to orders.
Law enforcement can only offer a breath test that is approved by the state, according to Florida law.
Henderson said people stopped at the checkpoint can still consent to take the breath test if they choose to when it’s offered.
However, if the officer states the Intoxilyzer is an approved machine, then drivers do not have to take the test and do not risk having their license suspended as a result. “If they truly had one drink, then take it and ask for a blood test,” said Mark Lipinski, criminal defense attorney. “Outside of one drink, I would not take the test. ... The sheriff’s office is playing a very close game on a very tight line. They are hoping people haven’t kept up with DUI stories.”
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office canceled a DUI checkpoint for July 3 after questions were raised about using the machines shortly after Henderson and Farrance said the machines were not approved.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Sgt. Paul Fieber said in most circumstances the machines can still be used in conjunction with officer observations and field sobriety tests. “We’ll just work around (the order) the best we can,” he said.
Lipinski said he doesn’t believe officers fully disclose information about the machine. “It’s not approved in the state of Florida and its reliability has been questioned. If you knew that, would you still take it?” Lipinski said.