The Intoxilyzer 8000’s moniker makes it sound like a futuristic robot from a big-budget science fiction thriller. In reality, the machine is a small, mobile infrared spectrometry breath-testing device used to determine if motorists are legally intoxicated by measuring blood alcohol levels. The contraption, which resembles a computer printer with a hose sticking out of the top, has been the source of considerable controversy in Florida.
While the machine has stamps of approval from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, several Florida drivers and their attorneys are convinced that the machine cannot be relied upon to accurately measure blood alcohol levels. In light of the stiff penalties those convicted of DUI face, the Intoxilyzer 8000’s margin of error may simply be too high.
Among the problems detractors claim the Intoxilyzer 8000 suffers from is the inability to detect interference on 3G and 4G networks, which may skew results. The device also processes far less data than previous models, measuring breath just four times per second, unlike older models that were capable of measuring 10 times that amount.
In addition, the machine also registers ridiculous readings in certain instances. For example, observers have seen the machine indicate that a driver’s blood alcohol level was 287 times the legal limit, which is clearly impossible. Perhaps most troubling, the machine contains a testing component that mixes nitrogen and alcohol to create a vapor that has the exact percentage that puts a driver over the legal limit. If that gas leaks, drivers may test positive.
Ending the controversy?
Based on several challenges to the use of these machines, judges ordered a lab in Florida to serve as the testing ground to try to gauge the device’s accuracy. The results of these tests may determine the fate of the Intoxilyzer 8000, and the fate of drivers whose DUI tests were performed using the machine.