A manufacturer's refusal to reveal the source code for its breath machines to test blood-alcohol content could cripple hundreds of prosecutions of suspected drunk drivers in Florida.
An appeals court has upheld the rulings of two trial court judges that the breath-test results are inadmissible unless defendants are allowed to examine the source code for the Intoxilyzer 5000. But the company that makes the machines, Kentucky-based CMI Inc., refuses to release the code, which it says is a protected trade secret.
According to a report in The Bradenton Herald, two Florida judges -- Doug Henderson in Manatee County and David Denkin in Sarasota County -- ruled the tests were inadmissible if defendants could not examine how they worked. Prosecutors appealed and this week a state appeals court affirmed the rulings. Prosecutors must now decide whether to take the cases to trial or dismiss the charges.
Both judges agreed that CMI could not be forced to divulge the source code. But without it, the evidence could not be allowed in. "The defendant's right to a fair trial outweighed the manufacturer's claim of a trade secret," Judge Henderson said during a hearing this week.
Prosecutors are awaiting Henderson's written order before deciding how to proceed, but one defense attorney said the state would most likely have to reduce the charges in many cases or drop them altogether.