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The Draeger Alcotest 9510 Breath Machines-A History of Problems

Posted Wednesday, October 10, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Many know by now that our state has now implemented the new breath-alcohol testing machine Draeger AlcoTest 9510 to replace its aging fleet and DataMaster machines that have been used for the past 30 years. However, this device illustrates the latest case of technology having real life consequences on those accused of crimes. This is because these machines have raised significant issues about their source code, calibration process, law enforcement agencies, and the German manufacturer of the Draeger.

Draeger Aloctest 9510

A person arrested for DUI in Washington will most likely be asked to submit to a breath test on the new Draeger. What was shocking to learn was that State Toxicologist Fiona Couper had sent an email in early 2009 stating that the State should “throw caution to the wind” and deploy the Draeger without independent testing. This “throw caution to the wind” approach doesn’t encourage confidence when deciding on a machine that could add to the fate of so many citizens.

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. Soon after, these 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. In response, Draeger claimed the company was protecting its source code and intellectual property, not attempting to hinder research.

This 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, this report said that under some conditions the machine 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.

If you have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence, call my office at 206-729-3477 so we can discuss your case today.

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