FDLE: Hundreds of Northeast Florida DUI cases may be wrong

Breathalyzer tests in Duval, Nassau, St. Johns purchased from unofficial vendor

By Ethan Calloway - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Imagine getting arrested for driving under the influence, only to later learn you weren't actually over the legal limit. It could happen to hundreds of cases in Northeast Florida.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement discovered more than 250 Breathalyzer tests distributed by the Florida Highway Patrol within Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties weren't completed properly. Despite that, it says there's no way to know for sure those tests are inaccurate.

"It's junk. It's just plain junk," said David Robbins, a DUI attorney. "They are playing with people's lives and it's reckless."

According to the FDLE, the breathalyzer tests administered October 2017 to July 2018 may have been calibrated using unapproved methods as they were purchased from an unofficial vendor. That means they could be wrong.

As attorney Susan Cohen explained, whether the case is admissible depends on what's known as the alcohol reference solutions. Those are used to determine the results of the breathalyzer in the field.

Still, Cohen said, the outcome doesn't mean all affected DUI suspects will avoid conviction.

"The only thing this impacts is the breath test result." Cohen said. "While that is significant, there may be other evidence, there may be a video, there may be sufficient other evidence that the state can still prosecute the case."

Robbins said in many instances, it wouldn't make a difference if the case was thrown out.

"People lose their jobs, people get jail sentences. You can't give them back a jail sentence. They're not going to get their job back," Robbins said.

FDLE said it's unclear why the solutions were purchased from an unapproved vendor. FHP said going forward officers will be using the approved solution.

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