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Breath test accuracy faces challenge before 1 state Supreme Court

When police stop a driver suspected of driving under the influence, it is not uncommon for them to perform a whole range of tests on the individual in an attempt to gather evidence of impairment. The problem with these practices is that they are largely subjective. Even when electronic breath test tools are employed, the human element can still lead to errors.

In Tennessee, field sobriety tests have been successfully challenged in many cases. The key is often having an experienced attorney at the helm of the defense effort when the matter reaches the court. Considering that the consequences of a DUI conviction can sometimes undermine a person's entire life, when clear questions about test results are unanswered, it may be worth pressing a legal challenge higher up the court system ladder.

Three defendants are doing that right now in Florida. Their cases received a hearing before the Florida Supreme Court this week. The three are attempting to get court-ordered access to computer software used to control breath testing machines. Their suspicion is that a review of the program will bolster their claim that the readings from the machines aren't exact. If the justices grant the request, it could affect DUI cases across the state.

The three defendants had succeeded in winning a ruling from a judge ordering the manufacturer of the Ontoxilyzer 8000 to provide the software, but a circuit appeals court reversed the order. The defendants then elevated the issue to the state's high court.

Setting the stage for the appeal is the fact that several circuit courts in the state have split on the issue when faced with similar requests.

The thing to remember is that while laws are written and documented, they are regularly undergoing revision by virtue of challenges like the ones in this case. That's why it's important for anyone facing DUI charges based on field sobriety tests should seek out an experienced attorney for consultation.

Source: Claims Journal, "Florida Justices Hearing Breath Testing Machine Case," Associated Press, Feb. 6, 2013

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