By Todd Ruger
Published: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 10:02 p.m.
Drunken driving cases across the state could be thrown into limbo now that the Florida Supreme Court has declined to review an argument over alcohol breath-test machines that originated in Sarasota County.
The state's highest court said it will not consider past decisions that essentially halted Sarasota and Manatee county prosecutors from using alcohol breath-test results during DUI trials over the past few years.
Local prosecutors were hoping for a high court reversal because in recent years they have had to reduce charges or abandon hundreds of DUI cases where the breath tests were the most compelling evidence.
The company that makes the Intoxilyzer 8000, Kentucky-based CMI, also hoped the high court would overturn a 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling on a Sarasota case that required the firm to give DUI defendants and their attorneys information about how the machine works.
CMI has refused to comply with past subpoenas for the Intoxilyzer 8000's computer code, allowing defense attorneys an avenue to attack the machine's admissibility.
On Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court handed a final blow to CMI, which now faces a choice: Either give defense attorneys the machine's code, or risk more attacks on its product, the only machine approved for use in Florida.
Defense lawyers across the state are planning to use the same argument that was successful here, said Venice defense attorney Robert Harrison, who has led the fight against the Intoxilyzer 8000.
"The state has a real big mess on their hands," Harrison said. "If they don't give it to us, it's going to be difficult to impossible for the state to use the breath test."