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KFOX4 Investigates: Records show police device used to test BAC repeatedly malfuctioning

BAC device (KFOX14)

KFOX14 Investigates has obtained documents showing a device to test blood alcohol level used by El Paso police on suspected drunken drivers has been repeatedly malfunctioning.

A local attorney told KFOX14 Investigates this information could affect hundreds of cases.

“It's been malfunctioning the majority of 2017,” said defense attorney Justin Underwood when talking about the Intoxilyzer 9000 located downtown at the El Paso Police Central Regional Command.

The machine, which was installed in March 2016, has had repeated calibration issues.

“We're talking hundreds of cases,” said Underwood.

Underwood requested the records after the machine's reliability became an issue at a recent trial.

Police use the machine to obtain breath samples from individuals under arrest for suspicion of DWI.

Records show in May 2017 the machine had to be recalibrated.

Then in October, service records show it was taken out of order and sent to the Department of Public Safety to be fixed because it was “producing erratic and unacceptable samples.”

“I don't understand why somebody from the Police Department wouldn’t disclose the fact that one of the machines that you've been using as evidence has been repeatedly malfunctioning,” said Underwood.

The machine was sent back to the El Paso Police Department on Nov. 20 and, just eight days later, it was again malfunctioning and sent back to the Department of Public Safety.

“What scares me the most is that this machine was sent to DPS and certified that it was fine. It was sent back here. It was here eight days and had to be shipped to the manufacturer,” said Underwood.

Underwood said the inconsistency of the machine could have a major effect on cases.

“The implication of this is going to be this: If anybody out there has either pled (pleaded) guilty or been found guilty of a DWI that has arisen from the machine located at the Central Regional Command Center, I would encourage you to contact an attorney immediately,” said Underwood.

Underwood said these machines are not infallible and problems can arise but he’s never seen one malfunction to this degree.

“I've never seen it to the point where it could impact this many cases,” he said.

District attorney Jaime Esparza sent KFOX14 Investigates this statement:

"We have full confidence in the Breathalyzer results and will continue to use the Breathalyzer to determine a driver's level of intoxication. The results of the Breathalyzer is not the only evidence of a person's intoxication. We consider the traffic violation, the appearance of the driver, the driver's behavior at the point of arrest and their performance of the field sobriety tests."

Now, Underwood has requested the records for all of the Intoxilyzer 9000s in El Paso County to see if any of the other devices have the same issues.

“The city of El Paso should get their money back on this machine and buy another one,” said Underwood.

KFOX4 Investigates reached out to the El Paso Police Department this afternoon about this story but has not yet received a response.

KFOX14 Investigates will bring you the results on the other machines when we receive that documentation.

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