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Intoxilyzer machine to get test in Congressman’s case

The aging and embattled Intoxilyzer 5000 breath alcohol tester this week is scheduled to get its first technical scrutiny by the defense in the Alexandria case of a former New York Congressman charged with drunken driving.

Circuit Judge Nolan B. Dawkins on Thursday granted Rep. Vito Fossella’s motion to allow inspection of the instrument “with an oscilloscope or other necessary equipment.” According to Dawkins’ order, the inspection must be “non-destructive” and the machine must not be disassembled or damaged.

The inspection is to take place Wednesday, April 8, according to Fossella’s attorney, Jerry Phillips.  Phillips said that former Hewlett Packard electrical engineer Thomas Workman will perform the inspection.  Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord said that a representative of the state Department of Forensic Science will attend.

As reported in this week’s edition of VLW, defense lawyers recently have stepped up their efforts to get an inspection of one of the Intoxilyzer machines by a defense expert.  Defense lawyers claim there are weaknesses in the maintenance and testing of the 12-year-old machines.   The DFS, which owns and maintains the machines, contends they provide accurate readings of breath alcohol concentration.

CORRECTION:  In the weekly edition of VLW, Rep. Fossella is identified as representing New Jersey.  He represented the 13th District of New York.

By Peter Vieth

One comment

  1. DFS has alwasys claimed that the Intoxilyzer 5000 is a Magic Box which is never wrong. In July of 2008 a suspect registered over a .60 bac on Harrisonburg’s Intoxilyzer 5000. A bac of .60 is a fatal dose of alcohol.

    In defiance of the Magic Box’s proclamation, this person did not die or even suffer a hangover. The subject was blood tested a little over two hours later and registered (0.00) zero alcohol. The Magic Box gave a false positive and has a margin of error exceeding .60.

    DFS never officially acknowledged this error and continued using the relevant Intoxiliar until it was retired in November, 2008.

    DFS maintains that the new breath tester is no more accurate than the Intoxilyzer 5000. I am afraid that is not even good enough for government work.

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