New information questions accuracy of breathalyzers - KCTV5

New information questions accuracy of breathalyzers

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JOHNSON COUNTY, KS (KCTV) -

Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth and Douglas counties all use a machine called the Intoxilyzer 8000 but its accuracy is being called into question in some states and it's even behind hundreds of drunk driving cases being tossed out of court.

"There was a lot of feedback indicating a high number of false positives," said Defense Attorney Michael Mogenson.

It was 2007 when Mogenson first starting hearing the Intoxilyzer 8000 might be faulty.  The machine is used in several states including Kansas to determine a person's blood alcohol level.

"A mouth alcohol with no alcohol in a person's system can provide a test result two or three times over the legal limit," he said.

Mogenson said he's seen instances where Dr. Pepper and even Wonder Bread have led to false positive results.  It's scary Mogenson said because whatever number comes out of the machine all but seals a person's fate in court.

"A person may pass a field sobriety test but whatever magic number is out of 8000, that's the magic number that's what we go with," said Mogenson.

In Florida where the Intoxilyzer's results have been challenged in court, cases are being tossed out left and right. The same is happening in some Ohio courtrooms. But authorities in Johnson County are standing firm behind the machine and its results.

"It's been very successful here, we haven't had any problems and part of that is the policies and procedures we have put in place," said Deputy Tom Erickson with the Johnson County Sheriff's Office.

Erickson said their Intoxilyzer 8000 machines are tested every week beyond what is required by the state. If any problem is found with the machine during the test, it's taken out of service immediately.

"We take a lot of effort and pride to make sure those things are done correctly here," he said.

Beyond the reports of false positive readings triggered by soda or mouthwash, there are also reports the machines can give faulty results due to a sensitivity to radio frequencies - for example a police radio or smartphone. Erickson said that is true but if it happens the machine shuts down.

"When it detects any kind of interference, it stops, resets and tells us what happened," he said.

Erickson said the Intoxilyzer is just one tool in the process of determining if someone is under the influence.  As the JOCO Sheriff's Office continues to stand behind the machine, the debate into its reliability seems to be gaining momentum.

Mogenson said the best option for people who believe the breathe test wasn't accurate is to take an independent test 0 the only catch is it needs to be done as soon as possible.

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