DUI Breath Testing Challenged in Local County Court

For the last 10 months, Bay County Judge John O'Brien's court has not allowed the state to use DUI breathalyzer test results in his courtroom.

The former defense attorney says local test procedures don't follow state rules demanding scientific accuracy, but now O’Brien's has been overruled.

Right now, breath test results are ok to use in the courts of judges Elijah Smiley and Thomas Welch, but not in Judge John O'Brien's court. So there's a one in three chance that if you're arrested and take a breathalyzer, it won't be used in court in Bay County.

Newly elected State Attorney Steve Meadows is one of the supporters of the DUI breathalyzer tests.

"It enhances our ability to present to a jury all the facts that we know, and a breath test is something that's important and a jury should have an opportunity to hear that evidence."

Defense attorneys, like Karl Trucks, say not having breathalyzer results gives them more power in the plea bargaining process.

"It would make it a great deal more difficult for the state to prove its case in these DUI situations."

While there's more than one way to prove someone's drunk, the ultimate ruling on breath tests will have a great affect on how DUI cases are prosecuted in Bay County and all over the state.

If the defense's motion were granted and upheld, not only here but in other jurisdictions, it could basically turn DUI law on its ear. State Attorney Meadows is concerned about the end result.

“The result could be that fewer people are held accountable for driving under the influence on our streets. And that's something that puts everybody in more danger."

The case is probably headed for the State Appeals Court and will probably take months to decide.

Florida law sets a .08 blood alcohol level as the threshold for driving under the influence.