Judge Rules Breath-Test Results Are Reliable

By James Schugel, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of DWI cases could now be prosecuted after a Minnesota judge ruled the Intoxilyzer breath-testing machine is reliable.

Scott County Judge Jerome Abrams said there are errors in the Intoxilyzer’s source code, but that doesn’t affect the outcome of the results — except in only rare cases.

Abrams ruled that the breath-testing machine can be used as evidence against drunken driving suspects.

Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesperson, Doug Neville, said Abram’s decision solidifies what the Department has been saying for years.

“We still believe they’re accurate, a very useful tool for law enforcement, and we’re excited now several thousand cases will move forward,” Neville said.

Defense attorneys have been challenging the Intoxilyzer results from about 3,000 DWI cases in the last four years.

Hundreds of lawyers have been involved in that challenge. They consider the Intoxiliyzer an archaic piece of machinery, dating back to 70s and 80s technology. They’ve argued a jury should not hear about the results the machine gives because the machine is not accurate.

Twin Cities Defense Attorney Marsh Halberg says he can still argue in court that the machine is bad.

“We can still attack this machine, have jury trails, litigate these issues. It all just goes to the next phase. We’re far from finished on this,” he said.

The Intoxilyzer breath test device is usually used when police give the test at stations after stopping drivers on the road. Many police departments across Minnesota have actually stopped using the machine, until this issue is resolved. They’ve been taking urine samples instead.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” said Twin Cities Defense Attorney Jeff Sheridan. He compared the Intoxilyzer to a “tinker toy running on a processor running the basic of computers.”

The judge’s decision will likely be appealed.

Neville said the judge’s decision has everything to do with public safety.

“The bottom line here is traffic safety. The bottom line is keeping drunk drivers off the road and having consequences for driving while intoxicated. So, those cases moving forward is a great step for public safety,” he said.

The state will start using new, state-of-the-art breath testing machines in the next few months.

“Our plan all along has been to eventually integrate and update and move into the future as we go,” Halberg said. “By our attack on this machine, I think we’ve showed the public and the court system how old this machines is, how archaic the processing is, and the need for new equipment.”

  • WHAT?????

    Well why wouldn’t they find the results correct. If they were wrong that would mean that they would have to admit that they falsely prosecuted thousands of people in the USA. Big brother does not like to say that they are wrong. Just imagine all the counter suits that would come out from people that have had a DWI and this was the evidence that they used to convict. If there was no blood test taken you would be able to ask for the money for the fines and all that back as this could have been a false conviction.

    • jon

      Agreed. They will never admit fault. Way too much money on the line.

  • M B

    “He compared the Intoxilyzer to a “tinker toy running on a processor running the basic of computers.””

    This comparison is just moronic, and is nothing but a ploy to get their clients out of trouble. He shows a marked lack of knowledge about technology in general.

    It’s like saying “I HAVE TO HAVE that Ferrari engine in my Prius, otherwise it just won’t work.”

    If it has enough processor power to do the job that the machine was designed for, then there’s NO POINT in putting a more powerful one in it. If the machine still does the job correctly, then there’s NO POINT in forcing departments to use another technology. Last time I checked, alcohol hasn’t gotten any more complex as a molecule than it was in the 70’s or 80’s so it doesn’t need any more complex of a test.

    • Reagan

      Very poor analogy M B!

  • ILuvIntox5000

    This is just another reason for defense lawyers to get as much money out of their clients as possible. Why don’t you drunk drivers take responsibility for your actions rather than project blame onto someone/something else? Let me guess, the guy who augered the two innocent motorists in Brooklyn Center last week (which killed them both instantly) is not guilty because of some “faulty machine?” Yeah right, good luck with that.

  • Troy

    Ha I had this Judge

  • Sarah Stiger

    Doesn’t matter if the machine works or not, the justice system is broken. How many times lately have we gotten to read news stories about drunk drivers crashing or getting caught, that already have multiple DWI convictions? Dumb Dumb Dumb, please people, stop drinking and driving!

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