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Breath Tests in Broward County Called Into Question After Operator Fired

The South Florida Sun Sentinel has reported that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Fort Lauderdale-Dade County fired breathalyzer analyst Sandra Veiga last week. According to her dismissal notice, she improperly tested the Intoxilyzer 8000 machines, the only breath test analysis instruments approved for use in Florida. According to Florida criminal defense attorneys familiar with the case, the accuracy of as many as 10,000 breath tests used to test for DUI are in question in Fort Lauderdale-Dade County alone, with more in Broward and Monroe counties.

When Intoxilyzers appeared to be failing the required annual state accuracy test, Veiga violated the Fort Lauderdale-Dade department policy by turning off the machines. Her intervention in the machines’ processing prevented the Intoxilyzers from logging errors in a central database in Tallahassee. In addition, Veiga advised other police inspectors on her method of avoiding any record of a failing test. Such conduct calls into question the integrity of the Florida DUI Breath testing program and qualified DUI attorneys have already begun filing motions in Broward, Fort Lauderdale Dade and Fort Lauderdale Counties. Judges in Fort Lauderdale have been agreeable to continuing cases while further investigation continues while the court has been less liberal further south in Fort Lauderdale Dade.

DUI attorney William Moore, immediately filed motions to continue all of his DUI trials involving a breatholyzer upon first learning of Viega’s manipulating the machines in October. He has since been working closely with DUI Intoxilyzer experts in order to best defend against the State charges pending against his clients.

“DUI convictions have serious consequences on ones career goals, in addition to social stigma and DMV complications. When an technician actively takes steps to hide the fact that these machines are failing, we have to put each and every intoxylizer test into question.”

Despite the problem with the FDLE inspector, the Intoxilyzers were still separately inspected monthly by the police departments using them. The Fort Lauderdale-Dade State Attorney’s Office has already indicated that it believes the devices were operating accurately and prosecutors do not anticipate any problems with their DUI cases.

These recent Fort Lauderdale-Dade developments might make you wonder how accurate breath tests are typically. Well, the answer to that depends. The Intoxilyzer 8000 can produce inaccurately high results for numerous reasons.

The first is mouth alcohol, which can include alcohol trapped in the mouth due to extensive dental work, from vomiting, or recently consumed cough syrup. Additionally, if you have blood present in your mouth (perhaps from a recently acquired injury or severe gum disease), the alcohol in the blood will be factored into the reading.

Chronic acid reflux can cause high readings.

The amount of time that passes between alcohol consumption and the administration of the breath test can raise a reading. Contrary to popular belief, a breathalyzer test could actually be higher when taken a few minutes after a traffic stop or an accident. This is because the alcohol can take between half an hour and two hours to fully absorb into the bloodstream. It may take longer if a lot of alcohol is consumed in a short period time.

Menthol cough drops and some cough syrups could cause a high reading if consumed just prior to the breath test.

Having a high fever can amplify the level detected by an Intoxilyzer.

Women sometimes blow higher readings because they have less lung capacity. Breathalyzer machines measure the alcohol emitted into the air in the lungs without really taking into account the amount of air the subject is actually blowing into the machine. Women may also get higher readings due to a higher percentage of body fat and relatively lower amounts of water in their bodies.

Since juries are instructed that a breath test reading of .08 or higher constitutes intoxication, it is vital to make sure your reading is not flawed.

For more information, see our article on Strange But True DUI Facts.

These are just a few of the problems that can occur with an Intoxilyzer. If you have been charged with DUI in Florida, contact William Moore Criminal Defense, P.A., which has experienced south Florida DUI lawyers with offices in Fort Lauderdale-Dade, Broward, and Fort Lauderdale Counties.

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