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The Intoxilyzer 9000 to Replace the 5000 as Georgia’s State Breath Test – But is it Any Better?

It’s official, the Intoxilyzer 9000 has been approved by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to supersede the Intoxilyzer 5000 as the Georgia state-administered breath test machine. The GBI conducted an exhaustive study comparing the Intoxilyzer 9000, the Evidenzer 240, and the Datamaster DMT based on specifications, user reviews, cost/benefit analysis, and many other criteria, but most importantly laboratory evaluations. Since defendants aren’t concerned with the costs or user-friendly functionality of a breath test machine, only the cost of a DUI, they deserve to know how the Intoxilyzer 9000 performed in terms of accuracy. Below are some of the key results:

  • On the Ambient Air Evaluation, which tests “the instruments ability to perform an air blank and purge the sample chamber of ethanol,” meaning that no residual alcohol will affect the results, the Intoxilizer was tied for last and 4 times worse than the Evidenzer. pg.11
  • The Intoxilyzer was rated last on average for the self-diagnostic criteria, which ensures that breath tests are accurate and reliable. pg. 11
  • The Intoxilyzer 9000 was tied for last and almost 2 times worse than on average than the Evidenzer at analyzing the characteristics of a breath sample and “ensuring that sufficient sample is received.” pg.16
  • The Intoxilyzer 9000 was also scored 20 out of 50 possible points and was 2 times worse than the Evidenzer at detecting mouth-alcohol interference in a breath test result. pg. 33

Mouth-alcohol detection is critical to accurate breath testing because there are many ways that mouth-alcohol interference can result in falsely high readings. Alcohol can get caught in caps, fillings, a retainer, or other kinds of dental work and cause inaccurate results. Burping and drinking alcohol near the time of the test can also make test results inaccurate. The GBI tested for mouth alcohol where “dose subjects were required to consume a small amount of an alcohol containing beverage and provide a breath sample at an interval determined by the evaluator.” The report, though, does not specify how long the intervals were. It is unclear exactly how long it would take for mouth alcohol to dissipate before the Intoxilyzer 9000 could return reliably accurate results.

There is also the issue of obtaining and analyzing the software source code of Intoxilyzer 9000. Recently, there has been a breakthrough in the long-standing battle to obtain an out-of-state witness to testify as to the source code of the Intoxilyzer 5000. Unfortunately, the software source code, or testimony regarding the source code, of the Intoxilyzer 9000 will be no easier to obtain. The GBI report clearly states that “a protective order and non-disclosure agreement is required for third party viewing of the software. Viewing of the source code must be done at CMI.”

Whether defense lawyers’ strategies when fighting breath test results will change with the introduction of the Intoxilyzer 9000 remains to be seen. The Intoxilyzer 9000 seems to display many of the same issues of reliability as the Intoxilyzer 5000. And at $7000 per base model and a gradual phase-in until 2015 – and with a 50% increase in DUI fines resulting from HB 1176 which went into effect on 7/1/2012– either through taxes or fines from convictions, the bottom line is that Georgia citizens get the Yugo of DUI breath testing machines.