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December 17, 2003

Statement on Iowa Supreme Court Decision Upholding Use of "Data Master" Alcohol Testing Devices

Comment of Attorney General Tom Miller:

"The Court has upheld and validated the DataMaster alcohol breath testing program, which is used by all levels of law enforcement all over the state. Hundreds of cases hinged on this result, and we are very pleased that the Court upheld use of the DataMaster cdm."

"The Court upheld the methods for operating the DataMaster that had been approved by the Commissioner of the Dept. of Public Safety and found that the Commissioner had authority to delegate to lab personnel the role of training peace officers on the operation of the DataMaster machines."

Statement of the A.G.'s Office and background on today's decisions:

The Iowa Supreme Court's decisions today in State v. Hornik et. al. from Johnson County and State v. Stratmeier from Plymouth County were very significant validations of the breath testing program used in Iowa drunk driving enforcement. The Court said: "Ultimately, we find no fault with the process by which the commissioner [of public safety] has approved the methods for breath alcohol concentration testing."

In both cases, the respective district court had suppressed breath tests results from the DataMaster cdm, after determining that certain aspects of the breath testing instrument had not been properly approved for use in Iowa. The Hornik case was a broad ruling that suppressed virtually all test results obtained using the instrument. The Stratmeier case involved suppression of results obtained using a special feature of the DataMaster. (The feature in dispute in Stratmeier, the "NV" or no- volume key, allows an officer to obtain an alcohol concentration test result even if a suspect does not provide enough air for a standard, complete test.

The Hornik and Stratmeier rulings were just two of a series of rulings from district courts in at least 12 Iowa counties earlier this year which considered whether the OWI breath testing program used in Iowa was valid.

The challenges posed by the district court rulings prompted the Iowa Department of Public Safety to issue emergency rules to clarify the procedural requirements for using the DataMaster. The department adopted the emergency rules effective May 1, 2003, to address issues raised in the Hornik and Stratmeier district court rulings, while the Attorney Generals Office pursued review of those rulings by the Iowa Supreme Court.

The rulings today validate Iowa's use of the DataMaster cdm breath testing instrument in all cases which arose before May 1, 2003. In Hornik, the Court upheld the instructions used by the DCI lab for use of the DataMaster cdm device.

In Stratmeier, the Court determined that, contrary to the ruling in the district court, the procedures followed when using the "NV" key complied with the DCI Lab directions for using the DataMaster and that the results obtained when the "NV" key was used were "expressly validated" by the DCI Lab directions.

Jean Pettinger of the Attorney General's Criminal Appeals Division argued both cases on behalf of the State.

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