Judge Rules Breath-Alcohol Machine Unscientific, Court Cases In Jeopardy

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UPDATED: Thursday August 22, 2013 8:36 AM

Defense attorneys are hailing it as a major victory against a machine they believe Ohio should stop using when it comes to determining whether a driver is drunk.

The machine is called the Intoxilyzer 8000, and the state purchased 700 of them.
 
But a case out of Marietta could put thousands of breath-alcohol tests in jeopardy.

“If you want accurate and reliable science then this machine is not the machine you want to go with, said Defense Attorney Tim Huey.

Early this month, Judge Teresa Liston ruled that "the results of the I8000 are not scientifically reliable and the court, as the gate keeper against unscientific evidence, must prohibit them from being introduced into evidence."

It was a ruling Huey says could jeopardize pending OVI cases.

“Every one of those cases is up for grabs,” he says.

The case pitted state experts versus a team of defense attorneys. Huey says it’s only the second time in state history where defense attorneys were allowed to challenge the machines results.

One of the issues is that the judge found that officers could manipulate the machine's test results.

“The longer you blow, the higher the test result will be,” said Dr. Alfred Staubus, an expert in alcohol breath machines who testified in the case.

Staubus said that the higher the test result, the greater the chance a person could be arrested for OVI.

The Ohio Department of Health has maintained the machines are scientifically proven.

The department purchased the machines for $6 million using federal grant money. ODH did not return 10TV's calls regarding the judge’s ruling.

Meanwhile, the fate of the Intoxilyzer 8000 remains unclear.

Defense attorneys say while they worry about future cases, those already convicted using the machines are out of luck.

“It's not going to undue a lot of false convictions - they're stuck,” said Huey.

The makers of Intoxilyzer 8000 released a statement to 10TV News Wednesday evening.

Officials said their machine has been upheld in courts throughout the U.S., and while they’ve seen the decision in Ohio, they respectfully disagree.

10TV News did a brief search and found that Marion County, Union County and Fayette County say they use the device but said they have had no problems.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol uses the machine in counties where it is permitted.

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