Tests of the Intoxilyzer DUI Breath Test machine yields troubling results


Nov. 28, 2008   Based on a Cincinnati Enquirer article

Ohio State officials plan to supply police agencies with the Intoxilyzer 8000, replacing the mishmash of different models of breath-test machines now used in Ohio and to centralize maintenance and record-keeping.

The issue has become a touchy subject in Columbus in recent weeks.

State legislators and a judge’s association have asked the state to hold off buying the machines from CMI Inc. in Owensboro, Ky., until legal challenges around the country are resolved and the equipment’s reliability is proven.

The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers joined in, saying it wants committees set up to test the science and make sure drunk-driving suspects don’t wind up with a raw deal.

A decision on whether the project is put on hold could come before Christmas.

Breath tests by opponents to the Intoxilyzer 8000 has raised some doubts about the effectiveness of the machine.  Kentucky uses a version of the same machine, and is styled tine Intoxilyzer 5000.

Testers claimed that the intensity and duration of the breath sample had a direct effect on the results, thereby allowing the same person to produce different results within minutes of the first test.  In one test the difference was .009%

Two separate blows – one with a long breath, another shorter – produced different results: 0.06 for the long one, 0.051 the second time.

The machine showed similar variations in five other tests.

Jeff Meadows, a West Chester, Ohio  attorney, who defends drunk drivers, says that’s the same problem with breath-test machines now in use.  He said, ““Why would the state spend $6.5 million … if they are not buying an instrument that is much better than what’s currently being used?” asked Meadows. “When was the last time someone replaced a dishwasher that wasn’t broken?”

Al Staubus, a longtime faculty member at the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and an expert on alcohol breath-testing machines, administered the tests on Lyons and his friends.

He has criticized the Ohio Department of Health’s recommendation to buy the Intoxilyzer 8000, saying the variations, among other things, make the machine unreliable. But that can be fixed, he said.

Longer breaths come from deeper in the lungs and contain more heat. So, the hotter the breath, the higher the alcohol concentration, Staubus said.

The Intoxilyzer 8000 is unique because officers can plug it into the cruiser’s cigarette lighter and use it on the road.

That saves the time it takes police to shuttle drunk-driving suspects back to the police station for a test with current equipment, Ward said.


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