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Judge rules breath testers unreliable in Ohio case

Aug. 22, 2013 @ 01:46 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Opponents of a portable breath tester used on drunken driving suspects are buoyed by a judge’s ruling that the devices aren’t scientifically reliable and can’t be used as evidence in a southeast Ohio case.

The law director in Marietta is considering appealing the decision, The Marietta Times reported. The ruling has no major immediate effect on the use of about 400 of the devices by law enforcement around the state.

The state bought hundreds of the Intoxilyzer 8000 because tests supported its reliability, Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Tessie Pollock said.

Challengers argue the results produced by the breath testers can be skewed by factors including humidity and how long a person blows into the device.

Some judges have sided with the state, but a few have excluded the results from drunken driving cases in their courts. One such ruling came last week from a judge hearing a set of consolidated cases in Marietta in which motorists challenged Intoxilyzer results.

Judge Teresa L. Liston, who was appointed to hear the cases in Marietta Municipal Court, ruled that the testers are “not scientifically reliable and the court, as a gatekeeper against unscientific evidence, must prohibit them from being introduced as evidence in this case,” The Columbus Dispatch reported.

A Columbus lawyer in the case, Tim Huey, has challenged the testers for years.

“Through evidence, we convinced the court that these machines are unreliable,” said Huey, a past president of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “Is it going to usher it out the door tomorrow? No.”

The Department of Health certifies the devices and said that most appellate rulings on the issue have sided with the state.

Pollock said officials “are confident that the use of breath alcohol-testing instruments helps to reduce impaired driving and saves lives.”