I thought it was dead. In the jurisdictions where I handle OVI cases, I had not seen the Intoxilyzer 8000 used for years. To my surprise, I recently received discovery materials which showed my client’s breath test was done on an I-8000. Given the challenges faced by this machine when it was first brought to life in Ohio, I thought the State may let it rest in peace.
The Life And Death Of The Intoxilyzer 8000 In Ohio
In 2009, Ohio spent about $6.5 million to purchase hundreds of Intoxilyzer 8000 machines. The purchase of the machines was controversial, as the State chose to purchase those machines rather than the BAC Datamaster, which was manufactured in Ohio. Adding to the controversy was the fact that the head of the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Testing (Dean Ward) was close friends with the manufacturer of the Intoxilyzer 8000: CMI. In fact, Dean Ward later retired and went to work for CMI.
As the new machines were rolled out in counties across Ohio, defense lawyers challenged their reliability. In the 2011 case of State v. Gerome, several expert witnesses testified for and against the I-8000. The judge ultimately decided the results of the tests on the I-8000 could be used as evidence, but that evidence could be challenged in various ways. In the wake of Gerome, the attacks on the reliability of the I-8000 continued throughout the state.
The following year, the State decided to take a stand in Marietta. Not expecting a vigorous defense in that venue, the State sent several expert witnesses to testify about the reliability of the machines, including the head engineer from CMI. I became involved in that litigation and cross-examined that head engineer. The hearing involved testimony from eight expert witnesses and lasted several days, including a holiday when the court was otherwise closed. At the conclusion of the hearing in State v. Lancaster, the judge ruled the defense proved the results of tests on the Intoxilyzer 8000 are not scientifically reliable and could not be used as evidence in the defendants’ trials.
The Intoxilyzer 8000 lived on but was dealt another blow in 2014. In the case of State v. Ilg, the prosecution refused to provide the defense with records related to the defendant’s breath test on an I-8000. A unanimous Ohio Supreme Court concluded the defendant has a right to challenge the accuracy of his specific breath test, so the defendant must be given the records related to the breath-testing machine. After the Ilg decision, I did not encounter the I-800 in courts where I practice, so it seemed the machine was effectively deceased.
The Resurrection Of The Intoxilyzer 8000
In 2018, the Ohio State Highway Patrol decided to make the Intoxilyzer 8000 the primary breath-testing instrument throughout the state, except Franklin County. That will be a drastic change, as the BAC Datamaster has been the primary breath-testing instrument in Ohio for decades. It may be the State has renewed confidence in the I-8000. Or maybe it’s because the State has a $6.5 million pile of breath-testing machines. In any event, the breath tests conducted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol (except in Franklin County) are now performed on Intoxilyzer 8000s.
I was aware of the State Patrol’s decision, but it didn’t really sink in until I received the I-8000 breath test result in my recent case. In reviewing the records for the machine, I observed a funny entry. That particular machine, now being used by the State Patrol, was previously used by a city police department. The State’s documentation for the machine said it was being removed from that city police department “because of the following reason(s): No longer wanted instrument”.