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Ohio Department of Health Finds a Way to Release Historical Breath Test Data

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Until recently, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) claimed it would be financially and technically impossible to release data from past breath tests – but a ruling from Ohio's high court changed that. What the ODH once said to be impossible, they were able to accomplish in about a month.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously on October 1, 2014 that the ODH has to release historical breath test data (specifically from the widely used Intoxilyzer 8000s) to DUI lawyers who want to challenge the accuracy of their clients' breath test results. The system the ODH implemented to comply with the high court's ruling cost about $144,000 and will cost about another $124,000 each year to maintain.

Many DUI lawyers throughout Ohio have long believed that the ODH's reasons for refusing to disclose historical breath test data were not financial or technical, but an attempt to conceal flaws in the Intoxilyzer's accuracy. Many judges have even disallowed Intoxilyzer 8000 results as evidence in DUI cases because of their questionable reliability.

Ohio initially purchased 700 of the Intoxilyzer 8000 devices for $7 million in 2009, but only 385 are currently used. This is, in part, due to the fact that Franklin County does not use these devices. State Highway Patrol uses these devices as well as another type called BAC Datamaster breath-testing machines.

The disclosed breath test results could have a potential impact on thousands of DUI cases. About 36,000 people are arrested for drunk driving in Ohio annually. To view the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, view Cincinnati v. Ilg (141 Ohio St.3d 22, 2014-Ohio-4258).