Prosecutors have decided not to use alcohol breath-test results in about 100 current DUI cases in Sarasota and Manatee counties after learning about problematic Intoxilyzer 8000 breath-test machines.
The 12th Circuit State Attorney’s Office reviewed DUI cases this week and will send letters notifying defendants who were tested on five Intoxilyzer 8000s that the machines were not working properly and therefore the breath-test results will not be used as evidence against them.
Prosecutors will still pursue DUI charges in those cases where there is other evidence the driver was impaired.
But the lack of breath-test results could mean dropped charges and better plea deals for some drunk driving suspects.
“It doesn’t mean this is the end of those cases, just we’ll be prosecuting them without the breath tests,” said Assistant State Attorney Spencer Rasnake, supervisor of the division that prosecutes most DUI cases.
The flawed breath-test results play a role in about one of every three pending DUI cases in Sarasota County, and just a handful of cases in Manatee County.
The state attorney’s office started reviewing cases the day after the Herald-Tribune reported this week that drivers across Florida have been arrested and convicted of DUI charges based on flawed Intoxilyzer 8000s that reported impossible results.
For instance, the machine at Sarasota County’s South County jail in Venice had reported that some drivers — who have a maximum lung capacity of about five liters — blew 10, 11 or even 12 liters of breath into the machine. That improper sample size can taint the results, experts say.
The problematic machines stayed in service, unquestioned, possibly for as long as five years because state officials never tested a key component or performed mandatory reviews of every breath test.
Inspectors in the process of checking every machine in the state this year have found that about 40 percent of 231 machines checked so far were incorrectly measuring the flow of breath into the Intoxilyzer 8000.
In July, inspectors found four of the six machines in Sarasota County and one of the four machines in Manatee County were incorrectly measuring the flow of breath into the Intoxilyzer 8000.
Prosecutors will no longer use breath-test results in about 50 of the 230 pending DUI cases from the worst machine, at the South County Jail in Venice. A Sarasota County judge has ruled the results from the Venice machine are unreliable.
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