Machine Failing? Just Unplug it!

     Defense attorneys were in a Miami courtroom on October 23d seeking a judge’s order to inspect the hard drives every Intoxilyzer 8000 used in Miami-Dade County. Before Judge Jose L. Fernandez, attorney Michael Catalano said, “We’re interested to find why she was unplugging breath machines so that she could cover up mistakes and not tell anybody.” This comes after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement fired the examiner who was responsible for testing all the DUI machines, alleging she failed to follow protocol with the inspections.

     Defense attorneys contend it is a scandal that puts suspicion over thousands of DUI cases in Monroe, Broward and Miami Dade. “The number of cases involved could be as many as 10,000 here in Miami-Dade County,” attorney Richard Hersch explained to a local reporter. “The inspector who has been discharged here was on duty for about 18 months before she was discharged.” In a “notice of dismissal”, the FDLE accuses analyst Sandra Veiga of having encouraged police agencies to abort tests on Intoxilyzer 8000 machines that were giving questionable results. “What the inspector was doing,” Hersch said, “was unplugging the machine if the inspection was failing, then plugging it back in; that prevented the machines from reporting the malfunctions to Tallahassee.”

     FDLE documents revealed that Miami-Dade and Miami Beach police apparently blew the whistle on the state’s testing supervisor. Miami-Dade’s state attorney believes the breath test scandal can be overcome, that the machines in question have passed subsequent inspections and have been shown to be operating properly. The devices run on a computerized system. Outside the courtroom on Thursday, assistant state prosecutor Pat Trese said, “We have every belief they’re working accurately and in a responsible way.”

     The Intoxilyzer 8000 is the only breath test machine approved for use in Florida, there are more than 300 in use statewide (30 in South Florida). Defense attorney Justin Beckham observed, “We’re going to try to get the judges to open up these machines and see what the truth is – the truth is supposed to come out, that’s our job.” Late Wednesday, an FDLE spokesperson said the case was “closed” and there would be no criminal charges pursued against Veiga. The FDLE’s Heather Smith added that the inspector “didn’t follow proper procedures.”

     “She failed to follow the correct testing protocol and would pull the plug on the machine, rather than let it finish the test and record her errors,” Smith said.
“It was not machine failure, but operator failure,” Smith said. In his letter firing Veiga, FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey wrote that she had “brought discredit” to the department and it’s breath alcohol testing program.

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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