This week the Florida Supreme Court made it clear that the technology used to create breathalyzers was not off-limits to scrutiny, and that defense attorneys would likely get an opportunity to test the specific algorithm used to determine how much alcohol was present in a person taking the test.

This opens the door wide to defense attorneys representing drug driving suspects across the state, and essentially puts the breathalyzer manufacturer on trial to defend its technology.

It’s little secret that drunk drivers cause more vehicle collisions and more traffic fatalities than drivers who are not under the influence of alcohol. What is less clear is whether small amounts of alcohol make a difference, and if so, how much is too much and how can a policie officer truly determine if a driver is over that limit without drawing a blood sample on the spot?

Currently only one type of breathalyzer device has been approved for use in the state of Florida, the Intoxilyzer 8000 built by a Kentucky company called CMI Inc. So far that company has successful defended it software claiming that it was crucial to their success that the specific algorithm they use not be made public. Up until this week trial judges have ruled in favor of CMI saying they agreed nothing would be served by releasing that information.

But now the Florida Supreme Court has ruled against these trial judge orders and seems poised to force CMI to release its ‘secrets.’

What’s at stake are not only a few individual drunk driving cases around the state that are currently being decided, but also the future of this technology as it is used today. Breathalyzer technology allows police to make spot checks of blood alcohol content on drivers they suspect of being under the influence of alcohol. It allows them to have a scientific tool at their disposal to determine whether or not a driver is intoxicated and by how much.

If these tools are somehow found to be unreliable, or faulty, or their integrity questioned, we might see one less tool made available to police in their effort to keep the roads free of drunk drivers.