Over a decade ago, 3,000 drunken-driving prosecutions in Tucson were dismissed in one day – about 5,000 cases within a few months – because the breath-test device that said the drivers were drunk was deemed unreliable.

This month, a popular breathalyzer, the Intoxilyzer 8000, may be ruled unreliable. The numbers from over a decade ago could easily be surpassed if one of the current alcohol detectors in Arizona, the Intoxilyzer 8000, is found to be unreliable, a leading driving under the influence defense attorney said.

According to Tuscon lawyer James Nesci, “This is going to be huge,” because the current machine is widely used statewide as opposed to the older device, which was used in Tucson and at a smaller agency in the state.

Despite court orders across the country, CMI has declined to divulge the code, which defense attorneys say will show that the device is error-prone. According to the records, the company has racked up more than $1 million in fines by refusing to comply with a similar Florida court order.

CMI President Toby Hall didn’t return phone calls for comment. When Bernini first ordered CMI to release the code, Nesci said a process server couldn’t get Hall to accept the court order.Last month, Bernini told prosecutors to get the source code from CMI. Deputy County Attorney Robin Schwartz told Bernini that she didn’t think the state could force CMI to reveal the code. Bernini also set a Nov. 24 hearing for Hall to appear and explain why she shouldn’t hold him and CMI in contempt for refusing to comply the orders.

In the mid-1990s when defense attorneys challenged the integrity of the RBT IV breath test machine, manufactured by Intoximeters Inc., based in St. Louis. Over time, prosecutors agreed that the device was faulty, which led to 3,000 cases being dismissed at once in 1997 and the total number thrown out about 5,000, Nesci said.

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