Portland Maine Intoxilyzer 5000: Inaccurate for Months, Replaced

Operating Under the Influence charges in Maine almost always involve breath alcohol testing from an intoxilyzer 5000 or 8000 machine. You can read this for information on how breath alcohol testing works. These test results will not be accepted by a court if there is credible evidence that the machine was not functioning properly. It now appears that one of the State’s most heavily used machines was malfunctioning for months.

Cumberland County Jail’s Broken Intoxilyzer 5000

Intoxilyzer 5000EN

Intoxilyzer 5000EN

In Maine, the Intoxilyzer 5000 has been the primary breath alcohol testing machine for the last couple of decades. After limping along for years, some machines are reaching the end of their useful life. The Intoxilyzer 5000EN at the Cumberland County Jail has now been replaced with a new Intoxilyzer 8000. The Department of Health and Human Services took this action after records showed that the machine was malfunctioning from some time in December 2012 until it was taken out of service in February 2013. During this time, the Intoxilyzer consistently returned an “unstable reference” error. This should have been reported to the State Chemists, but it wasn’t and the machine stayed in service. This means that dozens of OUI cases are being prosecuted right now based on a broken breath testing device. To my knowledge, prosecutors have not dismissed these cases or advised the defendants of the issue. The fact is, that’s not the prosecution’s job, if the defense does not challenge the test, the court will presume it’s accurate.

Other Challenges to Intoxilyzer Breath Alcohol Testing

A company called CMI inc. in Kentucky makes the Intoxilyzer 5000 and 8000 breath alcohol testing machines. Over the years, there have been many challenges to machine’s accuracy and reliability. A notable coalition in Minnesota has contested the admissibility of the results since the company refuses to turn over the machine’s software code. A January, 2013 case in Pennsylvania reasoned that the machine was not properly calibrated to test levels of .15 or more and invalidated the results in high test cases. These and other challenges have created some useful law and raised important issues, but they’ve failed to invalidate the machine on a national or regional scale.

The intoxilyzer 5000 is our reality and its results are accepted in court. The broader questions about accuracy are interesting, but challenges to individual machines and tests are more likely to force the court to exclude a result in a given case. The lesson from this one Portland machine is that these intoxilyzers are not perfect, they break and malfunction. They are not being maintained in laboratory conditions, but are used and abused by police and intoxicated citizens. The problem is that even a broken machine can print out a superficially “valid” test result. The inaccuracy is only revealed when an OUI defense attorney digs deeper.

Portland Maine Intoxilyzer 5000: Inaccurate for Months, Replaced by
Loading Facebook Comments ...

Speak Your Mind