Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Trial Court Should Have Considered Breathalyzer Results, Appeals Court Rules

A trial court erred by excluding from evidence breathalyzer results when it deemed the Intoxilyzer 8000 unreliable, the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled on February 7.

In 2011, authorities charged Heather Reid with operating a motor vehicle with a prohibited breath-alcohol concentration. Following two suppression hearings, the Circleville Municipal Court found her not guilty after ruling the state failed to show the reliability of the Intoxilzyer 8000.

In the 2-1 per curiam decision, the appeals court discussed how the Ohio Supreme Court’s 1984 ruling in State v. Vega prevents a defendant from making “a general attack upon the reliability and validity of the breath testing instrument.” Since then, other appeals courts “have agreed that a defendant may not challenge the general reliability of an ODH (Ohio Department of Health )-approved chemical analysis technique or method to detect a defendant’s bodily alcohol concentration.”

“We, however, believe that a close reading of Vega arguably leaves room for debate about whether a trial court must admit Intoxilyzer 8000 results into evidence,” the court wrote.

“Based upon the current state of the law, we do not believe that Vega permits a defendant to mount a general reliability challenge to the Intoxilyzer 8000, an instrument that the ODH has approved for use in these circumstances.”

The court noted that it would “welcome further review of this issue so as to end the uncertainty percolating in the lower courts regarding Intoxilyzer 8000 reliability and test result admissibility.”

Judge Matthew W. McFarland dissented and cited the trial judge’s important gatekeeper function regarding scientific evidence.

“I view the challenge herein to be one attacking a particular instrument and not a general ‘shotgun attack,’” he wrote. “So, it appears Vega is distinguishable and permits a review under Evid.R. 104 as to the relevancy and reliability of evidence other than via a motion to suppress. And this is consistent with the important gatekeeper’s function of the trial court.”

He also urged the Supreme Court to revisit the issue.

State v. Reid, 2013-Ohio-562
Criminal Appeal From: Circleville Municipal Court
Judgment Appealed From Is: Affirmed In Part and Reversed In Part
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: February 7, 2013

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