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Attorneys: Breathalyzer technology could be faulty

Justices at the Florida State Supreme Court are wrestling with a case that could require a breathalyzer manufacturer to turn over trade secrets about its machines. The DUI breath test case has been filed by several plaintiffs who argue that they must evaluate the machines' software. The alleged DUI drivers and their attorneys believe that the machine, called the Intoxilyzer 8000, is inaccurate. The devices are made by a company in Kentucky, so it is not yet clear whether the court can compel the firm to submit its technological records.

Even though it may appear to be a simple request, attorneys for both sides say that obtaining such information across state lines is a delicate process. The court will be deciding whether attorneys for the accused drunk drivers will be able to access the company's information simply because the maker of the Intoxilyzer 8000 does business in Florida. The courts would have difficulty reaching across state lines to get the information, according to some experts, but they might be able to fine registered agents for the company until the firm agrees to release the documents.

Attorneys for the accused drunk drivers say the rules are hindering their ability to represent their clients. They allege that the false readings have caused scores of wrongful DUI convictions in Florida; even if the company is not based in that state, it is still providing Florida's law enforcement officers with incorrect readings.

Authorities report that the state legislature may even consider passing a law after this case, requiring out-of-state manufacturers of such products to disclose technological information for criminal defendants. If the breathalyzer equipment proves to be faulty, it is possible that a large number of convictions could be overturned. Breathalyzers are not the only way to collect blood alcohol information, however, with more jurisdictions making the transition to blood-based testing.

Source: Naples Daily News, "Florida justices hearing DUI breath testing machine case," Feb. 5, 2013

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