Virginia’s Breathalyzer, the Intoxilyzer 5000, Is Far from Perfect

You may not be aware that the word “Breathalyzer” is a lot like the word “Xerox.” When they were first introduced, Breathalyzers (manufactured by Smith and Wesson, the gun company) were so popular that the word quickly attached itself to all brands of breath-alcohol-measuring devices. The fact is that police departments across the U.S. make use of dozens of brands of “breathalyzers,” and in Virginia, the standard device is the Intoxilyzer 5000, made by a company called CMI.

Like all electronic devices, the Intoxilyzer 5000 has its share of what defense attorneys would characterize as kinks, quirks, and design flaws; the list is too long to reproduce here, but includes this device's calibration, the orientation of the breathing tube, and its margin of error in breath readings (which some sources say can be as high as 0.01 percent, not a small matter when the legal limit for DUI in Virginia is 0.08 percent). Perhaps more to the point, police departments in Virginia continue to use the Intoxilyzer 5000 even though it's already years out of date (the newer Intoxilyzer 8000 is better and has more advanced features).

A preliminary breath-alcohol test using the Intoxilyzer 5000 is a key link in the chain of evidence involved in a DUI arrest. A good defense attorney will closely examine this device for flaws or malfunctions; that's why, if you've been charged with DUI, you should contact the law firm of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman right away.

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