Two years ago, law enforcement agencies in Arizona and elsewhere around the nation put their trust in CMI Inc.
But now that company, which makes a device measuring alcohol in the breath of drivers, has turned on those very law enforcement agencies. As a result, dozens of DUI cases have been thrown out of court and thousands more may follow the same path.
This clearly is a company that should not be given more business. And it is is a lesson in what must be established before future breath-testing equipment is purchased and put into use.
CMI is based in Owensboro, Ky., and manufactures the Intoxilyzer devices used to identify drunken drivers and provide fair and verifiable evidence that can be used in court.
Dec. 1, 2006, Tucson police started using the Intoxilyzer 8000 – a machine used by most law enforcement agencies in Arizona.
But there have been allegations by defense attorneys that the machine is inaccurate. And prosecutors have been unable to adequately rebut that because despite repeated court orders, CMI refuses to turn over its software to be independently analyzed and tested.
Without a way to challenge the information, dozens of DUI cases have been thrown out of local courts. Thousands more may be thrown out if the company continues to ignore court orders to provide the information.
The company is so insistent on being uncooperative that it has paid more than $1 million in fines rather than comply with similar court orders in Florida.
CMI claims it is protecting trade secrets, but that seems unlikely. Manufacturers of competing devices note that CMI software works only with CMI machines. Unless another company makes an identical machine, the software is useless.
CMI’s refusal to cooperate with the judicial system in which it seeks to participate is deeply troubling. Instead of helping police identify and prosecute drunken drivers, CMI is making it more difficult for police to do so.
Arresting drunken drivers is an important aspect of making roads safer. But the accused have rights – including the right to challenge the evidence presented against them. CMI has effectively deprived them of that right and forced the dismissal of cases.
Are the machines accurate? Who knows? CMI has issued repeated software updates without explaining what needed to be fixed.
There is a lesson here for local law enforcement authorities: When the CMI equipment is replaced – as it has to be – there must be a contractual guarantee from the new vendor that it will stand behind its equipment and fully cooperate with court orders needed to successfully prosecute DUI cases.
This contempt for the justice system cannot be repeated.