MANATEE -- Prosecutors in Manatee County have decided not to use the alcohol breath-test results from one or two local Intoxilyzer 8000 machines, saying the volume of blown air wasn’t accurately measured.
The decision impacts an unknown number of pending Manatee DUI cases during a range of dates that is also not yet fully known, said Heather Doyle, a division chief in the Manatee County state attorney’s office.
Officials are also unsure if one or both machines were measuring inaccurately. One of the machines in question is a rarely used back-up.
The impacted cases will still be pursued, but without use of breath tests, Doyle added.
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“We felt it was the right thing for the integrity of the pending cases to not use the breath results,” Doyle said.
An official with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Manatee County’s concern about the accuracy of the alcohol content tests recorded by one or two machines, which were both taken off line to have their volume flow meters successfully calibrated, is misplaced.
“There have been some readings of the breath volume that are unusually high,” said Heather Smith, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “But the volume is separate and independent from the subject’s alcohol content results ... the amount of breath you blow can not result in a higher or lower alcohol content reading.”
Perhaps because of the Intoxilyzer’s controversial recent history, including challenges to its accuracy and demands for its internal codes, Manatee County took no chances when it was informed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that two of its five machines had to have its flow meters calibrated.
“As a result of learning this, we are pulling our cases where that Intoxilyzer 8000 was used and notifying the defense attorneys that we will not use the breath test results in those cases,” Doyle said. “We don’t have a number at this time because we are actively pulling those files.”
The defense attorneys were given the serial numbers of the affected machines and the prosecutor’s office is also filing the new information in the court documents of the impacted cases, Doyle said.
“Breath tests aren’t the only things you can use to prosecute a DUI,” said Dave Bristow, a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “You can use a field sobriety test and the police officer’s observation, which is how DUIs often get started. The breath test is just one thing that is done.”
All five Intoxilyzer 8000 machines operating in Manatee County have now passed inspection, are on line and their results will be used in DUI cases going forward, Doyle said.
“Sarasota County had more instruments that were affected,” Doyle added. “We have one, maybe two.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement believes that the Intoxilyzer 8000 alcohol results have never been compromised by the flow irregularities.
“We have always known that the volume is not connected to the test results,” Smith said.
“We understand that, as part of the process, it is the role of the defense to attempt to cause doubt.”
By law, the machines must be inspected monthly by the agency that uses them and are inspected yearly by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Smith said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.