Minnesota Intoxilyzer Source Code Victory: Why Deficient Samples Must Be Dismissed.

Posted On April 21, 2011 by Charles Ramsay

Judge Abrams ruled at the conclusion of the consolidated source code hearings that the Intoxilyzer cannot reliably determine deficient samples. Unlike most Intoxilyzer test results, which were deemed admissible, Judge Abrams ruled that test results reporting a sample as "deficient| should not be allowed into evidence. Specifically, he stated that:

In cases in which the Intoxilyzer 5000EN ... reported a |Deficient Sample,| the Source Code of the instrument does impact the reliability, solely, of this result. Evidence of such cases of a |Deficient Sample| test report should not be allowed unless other evidence exists which provides reasons and/or observations of testing which supports the sample being deficient.

Order, para. 2 (our emphasis).

Judge Abrams explicitly found that the Intoxilyzer cannot properly determine a deficient sample - and therefore does not support a charge of test refusal. In the order, it appears that the door has been left open for the government to bolster this faulty test result with |other evidence| that the test subject |refused| to provide a valid sample. However, the actual state of the law in Minnesota says the opposite - under Minnesota law, only a breath test machine that determines a deficient sample, not the officer.

Minnesota's DWI laws make it a crime to |refuse| alcohol testing, which is defined as a |failure of a person to provide two separate, adequate breath samples in the proper sequence . . .| Minn.Stat. § 169A.51, subd. 5(c) (2010). A sample is defined as |adequate| if, |the instrument analyzes the sample and does not indicate the sample is deficient.| Id., subd. 5(b). A plain reading of these statutes means that only the Intoxilyzer test result, and not the opinions of an officer, determine if a person actually |refused| to provide an adequate sample.

We know, because we recently won on this issue in front of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, in Hansen v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety. In Hansen (a |deficient sample| case) the trial court judge ruled that the source code was irrelevant, because |other evidence| besides the Intoxilyzer test result proved that our client refused to provide a valid sample. We disagreed, and appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge's decision in favor of our client.

In Hansen, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said,

We have held that an identically worded statute |makes it clear that the Intoxilyzer, not the police officer, is to determine the adequacy of a breath sample.| Genia v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, 382 N.W.2d 284, 286 (Minn.App.1986). And we found no statutory authority that, once the breath test began, |a refusal can be based on an officer's conclusion that a driver is not making a good-faith effort to provide an adequate sample.| Id.

Hansen at *4.

So, it's clear that only a breath test machine (for now, the Intoxilyzer 5000EN) can determine whether a breath sample is deficient. Any officer's subjective opinions are irrelevant. What this means is that the government can only prove a |refusal by conduct| charge by presenting a test result that lists the sample as |deficient.| And as long as the State continues to use the outdated, broken and error-prone Intoxilyzer, any |deficient| result cannot be admitted into evidence.