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Breathalyzer Test Accuracy Debate Revived

By Kimberly Crockett Herald Staff Writer

  • Miami Herald, The (FL)
  • August 20, 1991

Faulty results from a Breathalyzer test helped a former Miami man escape drunk driving charges Monday, just the latest case in which the accuracy of the instrument has failed to pass muster in a courtroom.

Dade prosecutors blamed the flawed results on an "inferior" breath sample. But defense lawyers say it is the testing instrument, not the sample, that is defective.

In several Florida counties, judges have tossed out drunk- driving charges, questioning the accuracy of the testing instrument. Earlier this month, a Dade panel of judges ruled that test results must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Defendant xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, who lives in New York, initially was charged with driving under the influence, said his attorney, Robert Reiff. When the Dade state attorney's office declined to submit his breath tests as evidence, the DUI charges were dropped, and xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx was charged with running a red light.

The state attorney's office decided not to submit the test results because a "low volume sample" of breath was taken from xxxxxxxxxxx, said James Greenfield, assistant chief of the DUI division in the Dade state attorney's office.

Reiff said this case is symptomatic of the whole Breathalyzer issue. "Was the test performed improperly or was it instrument error?" Reiff asked. "The breath tests are given such great weight and they're not reliable. Thousands of people are being harmed without knowing it."

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