New Weapon To Fight Drunken Drivers Violators May Be Left Without A Breath Of A Chance

The Arizona Republic
April 27, 2004

Santa Scarborough, The Arizona Republic

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Testing DUI suspects is getting a lot easier for Arizona law officers, who have begun packing a smaller, lightweight Intoxilyzer that can be taken on the road and operated with the power from a vehicle's cigarette lighter.

In 1999, several thousand Arizona DUI cases were called into question after defense attorneys claimed DPS and Phoenix police lab technicians withheld practice-test errors. The controversy was dubbed the "data dump." Attorneys claimed the errors meant suspects were denied due process.

"DUIs are highly litigated in this state more than other states. Defense attorneys raise every potential issue and do their job," Griffith said. "The citizens can be very assured they are getting a good breath test and it is accurate."

Craig Penrod, a Tempe attorney who specializes in DUI cases, said one of the reason for that is that Arizona haw some of the stiffest penalties in the country for drunken driving, including first-time mandatory jail time and steep fines.

"The consequences are so far reaching to the average guy. It has such a life impact that people want to make sure their rights are protected," he said.

Penrod said he has just begun evaluating the Intoxilyzer now that a few of the cases involving them have landed on his desk. He said he is excited that the machines hold more internal memory data that can be tracked to see how well and accurate the machine is working over time.

But he said the question is whether police agencies will preserve that data because some currently don't keep data from older machines.

Penrod said he is looking forward to seeing how well it works.

"I don't worship at the alter of the Intoxilyzer," Penrod said. "It is still a machine and it is not always right."

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