Research Shows Breathalyzer Test Has Major Flaws

Millions of drunk driving arrests are being questioned now that the source code for a police breathalyzer that is widely used in multiple states is being scrutinized by researchers.

This is just the latest case of technology having real life consequences on those accused of crimes. The issue in question revolves around a source code, calibration of equipment, two researchers, state law enforcement agencies, and the manufacturer of the breathalyzer, Draeger.

The dispute began 10 years ago when Washington state police awarded Draeger, a German medical technology maker, the contract to sell the Alcotest 9510 across the state. Two experts later wrote in a preliminary report that they found flaws in the source code that could produce inaccurate breath test results.

The experts presented their early findings to attendees at a conference for defense lawyers. However Draeger said this was a violation of a court-signed protective order the experts had agreed to, so the company threatened to sue. Due to the lawsuit, the research and final report was never completed.

Draeger claimed the company was protecting its source code and intellectual property, not attempting to hinder research.

While the findings couldn’t be verified against one of the breathalyzers, the researcher’s initial report revealed several issues in the code that they said could impact the result of an alcohol breath test. The Alcotest 9510 uses two sensors to measure the alcohol content in a person’s breath sample. An infrared beam measures how much light goes through the breath, while a fuel cell measures the electrical current of the sample. If the results of the two samples are too far apart, the test will be rejected.

However, the researcher’s report said that under some conditions the breathalyzer can return an inflated reading that might push a person over the legal limit. The report also uncovered issues with the way the device adjusts for the temperature of a person’s breath.

Breathalyzers are frequently used by law enforcement to charge people with DUIs, with over a million arrests taking place each year. Draeger's breathalyzer is used throughout the US, including the states of California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. In many of these states it is the only breathalyzer law enforcement agencies have purchased.

At Law Office of Mark W. Garka, PLLC, we help those who have been accused of DUI protect their rights. If you have been arrested for a DUI, you should immediately consult with our attorney.

Call (888) 252-1961,or contact our Snohomish County DUI lawyer to set up a consultation today.

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