Two years ago, Manatee County Court Judge Doug Henderson ruled that evidence of breath alcohol tests in more than 100 drunk-driving cases could not be presented at trial. According to an article that appeared earlier this month at BradentonHerald.com, Judge Henderson's rulings in those several cases have been affirmed by two different courts of appeals. The result may be that the Manatee County State Attorney's Office will have to drop certain of those cases while reducing charges in others (from DUI to possibly reckless driving).
Judge Henderson ruled the results of the breathalyzer tests inadmissible because the company that makes Florida's breathalyzers, CMI, Inc., has consistently refused to release the contents of its computer software to lawyers representing individuals accused of DUI in Manatee County. Those lawyers argued that their clients have a right to have their own experts analyze the breathalyzers and its software in order to determine if the machines operate correctly. Judge Henderson agreed, stating that while CMI's claim that its source code was a trade secret had merit, the accused individuals' right to a fair trial outweighed CMI's interest in protecting its software from public disclosure.
The big question now is whether judges in other Florida counties will, like Judge Henderson, rule breathalyzer tests inadmissible as long as CMI, Inc. refuses to reveal its source code.
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