DUI Arrests and Georgia's Intoxilyzer 5000 Breath Test Machine

    "He blew over the legal limit, he was DUI...case closed."  Seems pretty easy, right?  Why would someone even fight over a DUI where the person clearly blew over the State limit of 0.08?  The truth is that results of a breath test are only as accurate as the instrument used to measure. 

    In Georgia, the only authorized breath testing device is the Intoxilyzer 5000.  Florida previously used this same model but they are now moving to implement the Intoxilyzer 8000.  When Florida used the Intoxilyzer 5000 they required the instrument to be calibration checked once a month; they said this was sufficient to ensure the reliability and accuracy of results for all those arrested for DUI.  However, with the implementation of the Intoxilyzer 8000, Florida now calibrates their breath testing device prior to each person's breath test.  The machine uses a gas with a known alcohol level to test and make sure the results of the machine are the same as the known value.  Then, and only then, is the person's breath alcohol measured.   

    So, does Georgia, which still uses the older Intoxilyzer 5000, provides for calibration checks of the machine on at least a monthly basis?  The answer is a surprising, No!  It could actually be up to six months between calibration checks.  Georgia only requires a machine to be calibrated once a quarter, and that calibration can occur anytime within that quarter.  So a machine that was checked for calibration and accuracy on January 1 does not have to be re-checked for accuracy until June 30.  The hundreds of person breath tested between those dates are, in essence, led to believe the machine is accurate, after all, it was just calibrated five months ago. 

    It's hard to think of another instrument that produces results used to convict persons of a crime that could go unchecked for accuracy up to six months.  Florida previously checked their Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test machines at least every month; now, with the implementation of the newer machines, it is calibrated each time a breath test is given.   

    Why would Georgia allow a machine or calibration protocol so seemingly lax to be used to convict persons of DUI?  It comes down to money.  Money to pay someone to calibrate the current machines more frequently, money to implement a newer more reliable machine, and money for the supplies and training required to have the machine calibrate prior to each person's breath sample. 

    But, in the final analysis, you look at what a DUI conviction does to someone's life, their career, their standing in the community and you ask yourself is what Georgia has good enough.  It is not "close enough for government work."  We need and deserve better.