The Intoxilyzer 8000 is the official breath-testing unit used in the State of Florida for suspected drunken drivers. The machine prints out a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) report that is analyzed by a specialist and used as dominant evidence in court.
The Intoxilyzer 8000 is not a cheap piece of machinery and neither is the required expert that must be present in court to testify regarding the validity of the results. A Herald Tribune article stated that prosecutors for years felt their only option was to hire “Matthew Malhiot, a former Florida Department of Law Enforcement employee who charged them $1,200 a day to appear in court.” Facing such a large expense, prosecutors decided they wanted to cut ties with Malhiot and hire current FDLE employees to testify instead.
On Thursday, a Sarasota County judge approved the decision to allow state employees to say that the machine is scientifically reliable and that the results are valid. Criminal defense attorneys, especially those who specialize in DUI defense, may find this decision surprising. The expert who analyzes the machine’s data is supposed to be independent and impartial to the trial. Having a state employee (one who often testifies in DUI cases anyways) as the witness who validates the reliability of the Intoxilyzer 8000 could be viewed as a conflict of interest. Although this may save money and make prosecuting easier in DUI cases, the job of the criminal defense lawyer may become more difficult. It will be interesting, however, to see if an argument surrounding this possible conflict of interest emerges as a plausible DUI defense.
If FDLE is going to testify that their own procedures are scientifically valid, where’s the unbiased opinion that court’s should rely on?