JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The investigation into an FDLE employee could put hundreds of cases against drunken drivers in jeopardy.
Action News has learned defense attorneys across the state are jumping at the opportunity to prove their clients were convicted with help from a source they say isn't credible.
Since 2001, Laura Barfield has been Florida's expert on drunken driving. As manager of the FDLE Alcohol Testing Program, she's testified in hundreds of DUI cases recently.
An FDLE internal investigation released Friday alleges Barfield is guilty of unbecoming conduct, misuse of state resources and insubordination. As a result, defense attorneys say her credibility as a witness is in question.
"Any breath test case ultimately comes down to what she has done," says Jacksonville attorney Mitch Stone.
Stone says he'a always had concerns with Barfield's testimony. He first met her 10 years ago in court, and she's been called to the stand in many of his clients cases. Stone believes her testimony often went against scientific evidence.
"She would say whatever it is necessary to say on the witness stand in order to get the result she was looking for."
And now, everything Barfield said on the stand is being questioned by Florida attorneys like Stone.
In September, the FDLE received two anonymous letters alleging Barfield traveled in her state issued vehicle to visit her boyfriend. An investigation found some of the trips totaled more miles than what was required by her work travel schedule.
Further investigation found she used her state issued American Express credit card 57 times for personal purchases between July 2011 and September 2012.
The report also documents that Barfield had been reprimanded in the past, and knew her actions violated department policy of using the cards for work-related travel expenses only.
Although the investigation was not related to the credibility of Barfield on the stand or the equipment she oversaw, some say it proves her unreliable as a witness.
"If she was willing to not follow the protocol in an area that could get her fired," says Stone, "then what is she willing to do in regard to the protocol that we're dealing with, on a machine that may be used to convict a person who may not be guilty?"
As a result of the investigation, Forensic Alcohol Consultant Matt Malhiot expects attorney's across the state to begin filing motions to dismiss cases immediately. Malhiot says DUI convictions that Barfield participated in over the past six months will be the first be be reviewed, but believes they could eventually date back to her first days in the position.
"Many people who have been accused of crimes may have been wrongly accused if the courts find her testimony to be untrustworthy."
Stone also argues FDLE representatives never notified him that the internal investigation was going on.
"She clearly was doing things to have her own office concerned about her credibility, and none of us were made aware of that."
FDLE spokewoman Gretl Plessinger tells Action News the accusations against Barfield did not require her to be moved out of her position during the investigation. She also says Barfield paid the balance of her personal expenses from the card, and taxpayers dollars were not affected.
Plessinger says the FDLE is not worried about the effect the investigation could have on DUI cases because, "defense attorneys are always looking for ways to overturn their clients' convictions."
Laura Barfield resigned from her position Friday, and was granted leave until May 24. Plessinger says Barfield could still testify in DUI cases if called before then.