Ohio judge bars results from portable breath testsWritten by Associated Press | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A municipal judge in central Ohio has decided his court won’t accept evidence from a portable device used to quickly test the breath of suspected drunken drivers until the state offers scientific proof that the machine provides accurate results, The Columbus Dispatch reported June 4.
The Ohio Department of Health used a $5 million federal grant to buy 700 of the machines two years ago, and it has gradually rolled out the device, called the Intoxilyzer 8000. About 220 of the $8,000 testers are in use in 79 of Ohio’s 88 counties, though not in major urban areas.
The Health Department is responsible for calibrating and certifying the device, and it defends the results, but defense attorneys challenging the tests argue heat and humidity skew the results and that substances in the air are misidentified as alcohol.
Judge Gary Dumm in Circleville decided this week that his court won’t accept the tests for now, making him the first judge in the state to rule that results from the device can’t be used to convict people of driving under the influence, the newspaper said. Dumm’s ruling threw out test results in three DUI cases.
The ruling applies only in Pickaway County, where law enforcement officers now must use older evaluation methods, such as stationary breath testers or blood tests.
“When you get these machines provided to you, certified and inspected by the Department of Health, you expect them to be right,” said county Sheriff Dwight Radcliff, whose old testing machine needs repairs.
Health Department spokesman Robert Jennings told the newspaper the state is working with the Owensboro, Ky.-based manufacturer, CMI Inc., to find an expert witness who can address the judge’s concerns about the Intoxilyzer 8000.
“We are confident of its reliability,” Jennings said. He said it is used in 19 states and 21 countries.
Critics of the device hope to press their concerns all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court in pursuit of a potential statewide ban on the use of the machines by law enforcement agencies.
Some believe the state bought a flawed device and evaded judges’ and lawyers’ concerns, said Tim Huey, a Columbus lawyer who is president-elect and DUI chairman of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He said he believes more judges will come to the same decision as Dumm.