MANATEE -- The Intoxilyzer 8000 test results are once again allowed to be introduced by prosecutors in DUI cases in Florida.
County judges from Sarasota and Manatee ruled recently that the alcohol breath-test results are credible, said Heather Doyle, misdemeanor division chief for the Manatee County state attorney’s office.
The machine’s credibility was challenged by Robert Harrison of Venice and other defense attorneys, Doyle said.
“The defense attorneys said the breath test should be thrown out because the Florida Department of Law Enforcement didn’t have a rule to ensure proper calibration of the flow sensor aspect of the Intoxilyzer 8000,” Doyle said. “The judges ruled that the defense attorneys did not prove that this affected the accuracy or reliability of the results.”
“The bottom line is that the breath test results are admissible in Manatee and Sarasota counties because of this ruling,” Doyle added.
A call to Harrison, who took the lead on the fight against the Intoxilyzer 8000, was not immediately returned.
“Mr. Harrison handled many of these DUI motions on behalf of other local defense attorneys,” Doyle said.
Doyle was not certain how many DUI cases were thrown out or put on hold in Manatee and Sarasota counties but earlier reports indicated a significant number had been impacted.
Although encouraged that the Intoxilyzer results can once again be used, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said that the breath test results are not the only evidence used in DUI cases and not even the first pieces of evidence gathered during a DUI stop.
Steube said the way the suspect brings their vehicle to a halt, the way the required legal documents are gathered and the field sobriety test are as effective in making a case as the Intoxilyzer.
“The Intoxilyzer is the last thing we do to make a case,” Steube said. “Say our deputy is following someone who is weaving. Many times, after flashing lights, the suspect will take two or three blocks to slow down and stop, which the deputy notes as evidence.”
Next, the deputy asks the suspect for his or her driver license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance.
“The deputy is watching for the way the suspect gets these three documents,” Steube said. “Is the suspect fumbling? Does the suspect look up at the deputy and say, ‘Now, what is it you wanted?’ By this time, the deputy is also close enough to the suspect to smell alcohol if alcohol use is present, which is also noted.”
The deputy’s script requires him or her to then say, “I have stopped you because you are weaving. I believe you are under the influence. Will you perform a field sobriety test for me?”
The field sobriety test requires the suspect to walk a line heel-to-toe and perform other tests.
If the suspect fails, the deputy is required to say, “I am arresting you for driving under the influence. Would you be willing to take a breath test?”
“If the client refuses, their license will be suspended automatically because when you sign for your driver license you sign a statement agreeing to take the breath test,” Steube said.
“But, the point is, if you refuse the breath test, there is a lot of other material we do use in court.”
Steube said the impact of the court review in Manatee County has been minimal.
“It only affected a couple of cases I am aware of,” Steube said. “I believe there was only one particular machine that was at the center of the case.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.