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KFOX14 Investigates: Defense attorney says problems with BAC tests widespread in County

Breathalyzer test

A local attorney says records now show that the machines used to test suspected drunken drivers have had repeated problems.

In December, KFOX14 Investigates reported the issues with a Breathalyzer at El Paso police Central Regional Command Center.

But now, records obtained by defense attorney Justin Underwood shows that the problems appear to be widespread in El Paso County.

“It’s not just one of the machines. It's all of them,” said Underwood.

The Intoxilyzer 9000 is used across the county by police officers and deputies to test the blood alcohol level of suspected drunken drivers.

But Underwood said the new model, which came to the market in 2016, is flawed.

“They don’t work,” said Underwood.

Records obtained by his office show that the machines have repeatedly malfunctioned,have been sent back to be serviced by the Department of Public Safety or have been completely replaced, sometimes several times.

“Our machines have been constantly malfunctioning,” said Underwood.

The Intoxilyzer 9000 stationed in Socorro has been replaced twice since June 2016. The Socorro Police Department is now on its third machine.

“No one ever told us this, any of this stuff. We are finding this on our own. Youhave a duty to disclose,” said Underwood.

On Tuesday, a DWI case against one of Underwood’s clients, who blew a 0.21 into the machine in Socorro in 2016, was dismissed. The first attempt at the test had resulted in an error on the machine.

The machine at the Mission Valley Regional Command Center has been replaced twice since 2016, and the regional command centers at Pebble Hills and the Northeast each had to replace their machines since 2016.

“I’ve flagged all of our clients' cases for this time period,” said Underwood.

The district attorney’s office told KFOX14 investigates that it has full confidence in the machines and is in constant communication with the Intoxilyzer supervisors, who ensure that any issues with the machines are addressed.

"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," said District Attorney Jaime Esparza.

In previous communication with KFOX14, the El Paso Police Department agreed with the district attorney’s office.

For now, Underwood is advising his clients, “Don't blow on the machine. Let them get a warrant and draw your blood.”

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