Automobiles

Challenge to Breath Test Reliability Turned Away by Court

Don't question the system

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Earlier this month the Ohio Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling to defend the principle that the accuracy of breath testing machines is presumed to be perfectly accurate. Under state statutes, the reading of the machine determines guilt, and the burden is on the defendant to prove otherwise.

The decision was a blow to Justin C. Miller who had been pulled over for speeding on November 24, 2011 and subsequently arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). At trial in April, Miller's attorney demanded that the state prove its Intoxilyzer 8000 breath testing machine was reliable. Prosecutors cited the 1984 court decision Ohio v. Vega saying any challenge to the scientific validity of the machine was automatically invalid. A Portage County Municipal Court judge believed this was insufficient and refused to admit the breath test evidence. The state appealed.

Miller's attorney insisted this appeal violated proper court procedures in which only final orders could be challenged in a higher court. The judge had granted a motion in limine, which is a tentative, pre-trial ruling that prevents a lawyer from bringing highly prejudicial and disputed evidence before a jury. The appellate majority believed the label was irrelevant.