Court rules for DUI defendant not allowed to challenge test results

Say that you are pulled over by an officer who suspects drunk driving. After field sobriety tests, the officer administers a breath-alcohol test (commonly called a breathalyzer). The results show that you are over the legal limit, but you strongly suspect that the device gave an inaccurate reading.

Now imagine that prosecutors are charging you with driving under the influence. You want to defend yourself by challenging the accuracy of the device that tested your breath alcohol. When you request information about how the device works and how often service and maintenance are performed, your request is denied. You are essentially told that you have to take the device’s test results on face.

This seems unfair, doesn’t it? Thankfully, that opinion was shared by the Ohio Supreme Court when it ruled on a case very similar to the one described above. After being arrested for DUI in 2011, the defendant filed a discovery request for information on the device that tested his breath alcohol. It is called the “Intoxilyzer 8000.”

The State Department of Health refused to hand over the records, even after being ordered to do so by a lower court. In a recent, unanimous ruling, the State Supreme Court held that because the Health Department would not reveal the inner workings of the device, the I-8000 test results could not be used as evidence in the defendant’s DUI case. In other words, the evidence was suppressed.

In order to work properly, the criminal justice system needs to be transparent. This includes being willing to prove that breath-alcohol test results are not fabricated or reached in error.

Source:, “Ohio Supreme Court Questions Breathalyzer Accuracy,” Oct. 6, 2014

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