Kim Smith of the Arizona Daily Star has reported that a Tucson City Court judge has ruled prosecutors cannot use the results of breath tests administered to 49 people scheduled to be tried before him on DUI charges. Her article states:
If other judges agree with Judge Thomas Berning, prosecutors could find it hard to prosecute thousands of other DUI cases locally and statewide. "I'm optimistic the other judges will agree with Judge Berning. It's a well-written decision," said defense attorney Joe St. Louis. "This could be really big."
Last year, law-enforcement officers across Arizona began administering breath tests to suspected drunken drivers using a new machine called the Intoxilyzer 8000, St. Louis said. Almost immediately, defense experts realized the machines were sometimes providing "weird" or inexplicable results, St. Louis said.
In order to figure out what was going on, the experts said they needed to see the machines' "source card" or software. The software would also enable the experts to determine whether the results were accurate and reliable, St. Louis said.
"It's a Sixth Amendment issue," St. Louis said. "Defendants have the right to cross-examine and confront their accusers." Defense attorneys began demanding the software from prosecutors, arguing they have a constitutional right to the information. Because prosecutors revealed they didn't have access to the software, Berning ordered the machine's manufacturer, CMI, to provide the software.
When CMI refused, defense attorneys filed a motion on behalf of 49 defendants asking Berning to dismiss their cases completely, suppress the results of the breath tests or assess monetary damages against CMI. Prosecutors told Berning the software is "proprietary" and can't be ordered disclosed, and the law doesn't allow for the evidence to be suppressed. They also argued they had given defense attorneys everything they had in their possession. Late last week, Berning ruled the results of the breath tests should be withheld from jurors.
Prosecutors will still, however, be able to provide jurors other evidence that could prove a defendant's guilt, such as the results of field-sobriety tests, St. Louis said. Although she can't comment on pending litigation, city prosecutor Laura Brynwood said she plans to appeal the judge's decision.