Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
By Shelley Grieshop
Site keeps tabs on drunken drivers
A new, public website provides information on breath tests given to suspected drunken drivers.
The online site - publicapps.odh.ohio.gov/BreathInstrument - shows data electronically gathered from Intoxilyzer 8000 breath test machines used by 228 Ohio law enforcement agencies, including several locally.
The online information gives officers, prosecutors and attorneys access to information out of their jurisdiction without having to make public records requests.
Five law enforcement agencies in the Grand Lake area have the I-8000: Mercer and Auglaize county sheriffs' offices, the state highway patrol post in Wapakoneta and Celina and St. Marys police. Eventually, every agency will have one as outdated equipment is replaced.
"We just got ours a couple weeks ago," St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven said.
In 2009, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) began distributing the Intoxilyzers across the state after purchasing 700 units for nearly $8 million. The cost per agency is funded through a state grant.
Several of Foxhoven's officers received training for the I-8000 months ago and are certified to operate the machine, he said. Officers must swipe their individual ODH access cards and the suspects' driver's license before instructing a suspect to blow into the calibrated equipment.
Celina Police Chief Dave Slusser said his department received the I-8000 less than a year ago. He isn't certain how often his officers use the related online data, he said.
"We use LEADS (Law Enforcement Agencies Data System) to get most of our information," he said, adding it's linked to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and is not accessible to the public.
Slusser believes the online breath test reports might be helpful to certain employers seeking a background check for prospective drivers.
The accuracy of the I-8000, which has come under fire in many states, is monitored by the Alcohol and Drug Testing division of the ODH, agency spokeswoman Jen House explained.
"The alcohol and drug testing program is responsible for training law enforcement officers on the I-8000, issuing breath access cards, certifying, installing and providing maintenance," she said.
ODH is "keeper" of the records and oversees the equipment's compliance as spelled out in the Ohio Administrative Code, House added.
The breath test information online is searchable by the name of the alleged offender and/or arresting officer, date of the event or other information. The website does not include arrest details.
By clicking the "report" button, a viewer can retrieve the suspect's age and gender, date of the alleged offense, the arresting agency, the name of the officer and breath test operator and other data.
Foxhoven said he's not surprised the information is on the Web.
"It's the sign of the times, I guess," he said. "It's just the way we live now."
He believes the public will utilize the website out of curiosity but doesn't feel it will act as a deterrent to drunken driving or other alcohol-related crimes.
"Drunk driving citations are in the newspaper all the time, and it doesn't seem to stop too many people," he said.
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Mostly cloudy, snow