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It’s the Source Code, Stupid!

Posted Thursday, June 14, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

The source code behind a police breathalyzer widely used in multiple states – and millions of drunk driving arrests – is under fire. It’s the latest case of technology and the real world colliding – one that revolves around source code, calibration of equipment, two researchers and legal maneuvering, state law enforcement agencies, and Draeger, the breathalyzer’s manufacturer.

About 10 years ago when Washington state began the process of replacing its aging fleet of breath machines, our state requested bids and the only bidder was Draeger, a German medical technology maker. Specifically, they won the right to sell their flagship device, the Alcotest 9510, across the state.

But those of us on the defense bar have long believed this machine is faulty. In fact, a preliminary report found flaws capable of producing incorrect breath test results and therefore we believe these findings cast doubt on countless DUI cases.The Draeger company has so far refused to release requested information on their machines, stating the company is protecting its source code and intellectual property, not muzzling research. And these issues in Washington are the latest in several legal battles where this machine has faced scrutiny about the technology used to secure convictions.

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