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Maine has a new machine! It’s not for schools to help our kids learn better. It’s not for hospitals to help cure what ails you. It’s not even for making water or milk safer to drink. It’s a new, and supposedly improved, breath testing device to help the government prosecute citizens accused of operating under the influence (OUI). The new machine is the Intoxilyzer 8000, not to be confused with the predecessor Intoxilyzer 4011 or the Intoxilyzer 5000 or the most recent incarnation, Intoxilyzer 5000EN. These are the machines that have been in vogue during my tenure as a defender of accused citizens. There were more before my time; there will be more after I hang up my spurs (okay, truth be known, I have never worn spurs or cowboy boots for that matter and my slick looking loafers gave way to “sensible footwear” several years ago). They all have one thing in common: The State always says that THIS machine is perfect. Then they go out and spend your money to buy a “better” one.

For more than two decades I have been educating myself so that I can educate citizens, the accused as well as the citizens who sit in judgment thereof, how these machines really work and how they don’t work depending on a number of factors. Those factors include operator error, machine error, physiological differences among subjects tested, environmental conditions and software assumptions that simply don’t fit in certain cases to name a few. For more than two decades, in opposition to my assertions, the government has claimed that those assertions were false. They have argued, in essence, that their machine is perfect. Far more often than not, citizen jurors have agreed with me and disagreed with the government. Then the government goes out and buys a new “perfect machine”.

The manufacturer of Intoxilyzers, CMI, sells the government new machines that purportedly “fix” the shortcomings of the previous models which CMI and the government claimed didn’t exist in the first place (i.e., when I was presenting those problems to jurors years or months or weeks earlier). No doubt, the new “perfect machine” is likewise flawed as evidenced by the impending arrival of the Intoxilyzer 9000. That’s right: Maine got the new best thing, but there’s a “newest bestest thing” already coming off the assembly line. I am guessing, an educated guess albeit still a guess, that the government will continue to present this machine as the perfect arbiter of whether a citizen is guilty or not guilty of committing a crime. Call me old fashioned, but I’d rather leave that decision up to you folks. It’s my job to tell you how the newest bestest machine works sometimes and doesn’t work other times. Then I leave it up to you all to judge. The citizens who hire me and I will abide by and respect your decisions. And, the government can always go out and buy another machine.

If you have been accused by the government, or the government’s machine, call me for a free consultation at NICHOLS & CHURCHILL 207-879-4000.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general, not specific, information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author(s) and the reader(s).

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