The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled last week that defendants may challenge the reliability of the specific results obtained from a breathalyzer used to analyze blood-alcohol content in DUI cases. In aunanimous opinion penned by Justice O'Donnell, the Court held that a defendant is not precluded "from challenging the accuracy, competence, admissibility, relevance, authenticity, or credibility of specific test results or whether the specific machine used to test the accused operated properly at the time of the test."
The case before the Court is based out of Cincinnati. The defendant, Daniel Ilg, was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and subjected to a breathalyzer test using the Intoxilyzer 8000. Ilg moved to suppress the breathalyzer results and made a discovery request for evidence about the machine that had been used to test him, including information about his specific test and the machine's data from three years before his arrest and three months after. Ilg also subpoenaed the Ohio Department of Health for information and records related to this machine. When this was not produced, the trial court ordered that his breathalyzer results should be suppressed, finding that Ilg had a right to challenge the reliability of the test and could not do so without this information. The First District affirmed this order and the city of Cincinnati appealed.
In affirming the lower courts, the Ohio Supreme Court distinguished this case from the long-held precedent set in State v. Vega, which held that defendants in DUI cases cannot challenge the reliability of breath testing devices. The Court found that while Vega prohibited a defendant from challenging the general reliability of the test procedure, it did not preclude the defendant from challenging "the accuracy of his specific test results." The Court affirmed the decision of the lower courts, holding that the defendant "is entitled to discovery of relevant evidence to support his claim that the Intoxilyzer 8000 machine used to test him failed to operate properly."
For more information about this case, see this link from Court News Ohio and this article from the Columbus Dispatch.