Imagine that you’re driving home one night after having a drink or two with dinner. Suddenly, you see the flashing lights of a police car in your rearview mirror. The officer approaches your window and asks you if you’ve had anything to drink that evening. You tell him that you had a drink with dinner.
After doing a series of field sobriety tests, the officer requests that you take a breath test. You comply with the request and the machine indicates that your blood alcohol level is above the legal limit. The next thing you know, you are faced with drunk driving charges.
What if you found out that the machine used for your breath test was faulty? That is exactly what happened in over 4,000 DUI cases that are currently pending in the state of Minnesota. Defense attorneys across the county have been fighting a court battle for more than five years to have the code that is used to program the Intoxilyzer 5000EN, a breathalyzer machine that is used in a number of states, released.
Several months ago a district court handed down a ruling that stated that the breath-test machines provided accurate results despite their coding errors. Some defense attorneys aren’t so sure that this is the case. They’re appealing the court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Minnesota which will make a final determination on whether the machines were capable of providing an accurate reading or not.
Until the appeal is decided, more than 4,000 pending DUI cases have been put on hold in the state of Minnesota. All of those cases involved disputes over the accuracy of the Intoxilyzer 5000EN. While the courts have insisted that the devices are accurate despite a known coding defect, many states are starting to phase out the use of the faulty breath-test machines in favor of another model that is allegedly free from defects. In fact, local sources report that Minnesota law officials will be using a new machine within a few months.
Star Tribune: “Waiting to exhale: 4,000 Minnesota DWI cases on hold,” Abby Simons, Jul. 27, 2011