10 News Investigators: Sarasota State attorney sending out notices to people who took breath test on faulty DUI machines

9:34 AM, Oct 12, 2011   |    comments
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Venice, Florida -- The majority of the alcohol breath testing machines used to measure a person's blood alcohol content in Sarasota have been out of calibration for the past two and half years. One judge in Venice has already said he would not accept the results from one breathalyzer in that city. Now, there are more problems.

Earlier Story: Charges that FDLE covered up faulty DUI machines

The attorney who discovered the problem in Venice is sort of a research guru. When he discovered the problems with Sarasota's Intoxilyzer 8000, he started doing research on the other machines using the state's own testing results. He was astounded to see the results, and the fact that prosecutors around the state continued to take people to court with questionable evidence.

"Certainly by now the State Attorney is on notice there is a problem here with every breath test in the state of Florida," says attorney Robert Harrison.

Harrison's research showed 40 to 50 percent of the machines were out of calibration.

"Sarasota is much worse than 40 percent, but being 40 percent or 50 percent wrong is totally unacceptable," he says.

Bob Marois knows firsthand. He submitted to a breath test on a faulty Intoxilyzer 8000 and couldn't provide an adequate sample. His case was thrown out of court, but he lost his license for a year and had his life turned upside.

"Somebody is going to have to straighten this out, because it is really not fair to people. I've been told there are only two machine used in the court system, the breathalyzer and the electric chair, and neither one will prove you innocent," says Marois.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is in charge of the DUI program, insists there is nothing wrong with the Intoxilyzer 8000 even though internal reports show problems and judges have thrown the results out of court.

"I've never seen them say they did anything wrong. They just say the court didn't understand what was happening," says Marois.

Robert Harrison is convinced many state attorneys are willing to bend the rules because they are DUI - "Deciding Under the Influence" - of one of the most powerful lobby groups in the state: Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The Sarasota State Attorney's Office is planning to send out what's called a Brady Notice to people who took the test on the faulty machines. It lets them know there may be evidence that may help prove they are innocent.

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