How Accurate Are The Breath Test Machines Used In Utah?

Interviewer: Is the Intoxilyzer 5000 or the 8000 used in Utah?

Court: We use the 8000s here.

Interviewer: Ooh.

Court: Yes, the Intoxilyzer 8000 is notoriously inaccurate. Also, it is not admissible in court in at least two other states; maybe three or four. I know a judge in Ohio recently threw it out, and I don’t think they use it in Florida. Other states do not use it because it is not reliable. But yes, Utah still uses it. Unfortunately, it is still admissible at this point.

Interviewer: I have seen both. The 5000 is the old piece of junk, and the 8000 is like a slightly less old piece of junk. It is like an old typewriter from the 1960’s.

But here’s a question:  If a police officer has it in his car, does that mess with the calibration of data if it is bumped and moving all the time?

Court: Yes, it is not a good situation. What is even more dangerous than the jostling of the machine is that certain radio signals, radar and things like that can interfere with the test results.

So you are driving around this police car that has all this communications equipment and radar guns and things like that. Then you have this machine in the trunk that is susceptible to interference from that stuff. So a lot of times, yes, the test results can be thrown off by that.

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In addition, cell phone signals have been shown to mess with the Intoxilyzer 8000 results. These days, there are 12 cell phones within every 100 square foot area in a major city. It is a problem to have them there. Unfortunately, that is the sort of the thing you have to deal with.

When you get a DUI, you are facing an uphill battle because the courts are reluctant, at this point, to recognize some of these problems with the Intoxilyzer.

Hopefully, we get them to recognize this, and we keep fighting to get a better system that is more accurate. However, for now, this is the situation you face.

Interviewer: How often do police have the Intoxilyzer in their car, versus taking you to a jail or a mobile DUI center?

Court: It depends on the police agency. The highway patrol usually does not have them in the back of their cars. City police, like the Salt Lake City Police, will generally have them. The outlying townships around the valley are hit and miss; some do and some don’t.

It tends to depend on the police agency. It is probably 50/50 depending where you get arrested and whether or not they have it there.

Interviewer: Have you successfully fought and made more headway when the machine is in the car, versus at a jail or in a stable location?

Court: Yes, it gives you one more thing to argue. If you go to trial, it is definitely something that you can show to the jury. Say, “Hey, look, these machines are not accurate. They have been shown to interfere with these kinds of signals.” So yes, it is definitely much easier to fight that way.

By Court Koehler

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