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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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DUI's Can be Reduced to These Offenses

Posted Friday, September 28, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

If you are one of many folks who have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI), it’s critical that you speak with a DUI attorney immediately, as there could be specific timelines you need to be aware of. As a criminal defense attorney, I can make sure your rights are protected during an investigation. Part of my representation is to fully investigate any charge against you, review the evidence and discuss what your options are. This could include contesting the evidence, negotiating a resolution to a lesser count or a full dismissal.

Many charges for Driving Under the Influence can be reduced to a lesser offense and one that can be eventually removed from your record unlike a DUI. Some examples of a lesser amended charge from a DUI include: 1) Reckless Driving, 2) Negligent Driving-1st Degree, 3) Reckless Endangerment or 4) Negligent Driving in the 2nd Degree.

Reckless Driving

“Reckless Driving” is defined by driving in “wanton and willful disregard for the lives or property of others” and is a gross misdemeanor. The maximum jail time for any gross misdemeanor is 364 days and a fine up to $5,000. The Department of Licensing will also suspend your license for 30 days.

Compared to a Driving Under the Influence conviction, a Reckless Driving amended from a DUI is less serious. A “Reckless Driving” conviction does not carry mandatory jail time or a requirement of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) unlike with a DUI conviction. The probationary period is usually less than for a DUI.

Negligent Driving in the First Degree

RCW 46.61.5249 criminalizes driving a vehicle in a manner that endangers other people or property while exhibiting the effects consuming alcohol or drugs. A “Negligent Driving in the First Degree” is a simple misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. Also, there is no license suspension penalty for this charge.

Reckless Endangerment

A “Reckless Endangerment” conviction is a gross misdemeanor and is defined as “recklessly engaging in conduct not amounting to drive-by shooting but that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person.” This charge is not a designated traffic-related offense as it can be committed without the use of an automobile. However, I can occasionally negotiate this gross misdemeanor charge over a “Reckless Driving” conviction for one reason…it doesn’t carry a 30-day license suspension.

Negligent Driving in the Second Degree

This is a traffic infraction and not a criminal conviction. Depending on the facts of your case, it’s always possible to negotiate your criminal case down to an infraction but can be challenging to do so. However, I have on several occasions been able to do this when my client’s breath alcohol test level was just below the legal limit.

Whether a Driving Under the Influence can be negotiated to a lesser offense depends on many things, including the amount of alcohol or drugs in your system, whether you have any prior DUI convictions, any accidents and whether you had passengers in your vehicle. Many times, I am able to identify evidence that is subject to suppression by a court because it was obtained improperly, testing procedures were not followed or there were simply too many problems with the quality of it.

If you are arrested for Driving Under the Influence or any other charges, call me directly at 206-729-3477 and let’s discuss your case.

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The Draeger AlcoTest 9510-Here’s What You Need to Know

Posted Wednesday, September 26, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Washington rolled out their brand new breath-alcohol machine approximately five years ago with mixed reviews. The Draeger-AlcoTest 9510, a German-manufactured device analyzes a person’s breath for police to estimate the alcohol level in a person’s blood. Based on our DUI laws, anyone who blows a .08 or above within two hours of driving is presumed to be driving under the influence. However, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt this issue and recent developments in DUI defense strategies have created reason to doubt the instrument and its results.

How does the Draeger 9510 work?

The Draeger 9510 runs on software that the state has yet to properly validate because the manufacturer has not been forthcoming with this information. The software controls the data when the instrument is used to collect and test a breath alcohol sample. Every quarter second, sensors check and record flow rate, volume, breath alcohol level and time to ensure the minimum criteria for a breath sample is achieved.Washington DUI law requires that the instrument only test “end expiratory air” – the last portion of air exhaled by the driver into the Draeger. The technical manual further clarifies that the minimum criteria for a valid sample requires at least 1.5 liters of breath exhaled and that the individual blow for at least five seconds. Blowing should only stop after the arresting officer notices the quarter-second readings of breath results are starting to plateau, meaning they’re not increasing at a rate greater than .04/second.

The instrument plots a graph of the breath result data for the officer and displays it on the built-in screen. When the graph starts to plateau, and the officer sees that at least five seconds have past and at least 1.5 liters of breath volume has been blown into the instrument, they have collected their first valid sample.

Valid vs. non-valid sample

A valid sample creates a graph that is always rising. Any dip in results followed by a sharp rise indicates the presence of “mouth alcohol” or other interference which makes the result invalid.

Mouth alcohol refers to alcohol not coming from a person’s breath, but something else in the surrounding or ambient air or a contaminant in the driver’s mouth, like food particles, or other items that negate the validity of the test according to the Draeger technical manual. Graphs that decrease followed by a sudden increase indicate an invalid test, and the jury would have plenty of reason to doubt the breath result based on this data.

Call my office to discuss this issue and more at 206-729-3477.

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Officer: Traffic Laws Regularly Broken

Posted Wednesday, September 26, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

I have spent many hours sitting court for various matters and occasionally will chat it up with a police officer while waiting for my case to be called. In speaking with officers who enforce traffic laws, here are the violations they tend to see more than others:

No Turn Signal – Specifically, drivers will occasionally turn onto a road and then immediately move to the far lane without establishing yourself in the nearest lane first. State law requires that you pull into the closest lane possible when making a turn. Once established in this closest lane, then you can signal to move into the next lane.

Traveling in Left Lane - State law requires you to stay right unless passing. It’s something that happens far too often that drivers can get pulled over for.

Not Signaling in Time - Washington traffic law requires you to signal for at least 100 feet before switching lanes or merging. That’s really not a lot of distance at 60 miles an hour, but it’s more than most of us see.

Roundabouts – We are seeing more of these roundabouts out there and some drivers and some drivers are confused about how they work. Here is the simple rule: if you are entering the roundabout, you must yield to traffic already in it.

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Arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI)? Here's What to Do

Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Would you know what to do if you were arrested for a DUI in our state? If you or someone you care about has been arrested for DUI, you’re probably overwhelmed with what to do next. If you find yourself in this position, here are the Top 5 things that you need to do (or not do) after your arrest:

*1. Read all the paperwork you were given*You were probably given a few documents such as a breath test ticket, possible court date and a DOL Hearing Request Form. Take the time to read these documents because the time, date and location of your next court hearing could be included, especially for Seattle cases. That hearing could be as early as the day after your arrest, and missing a court appearance will only add another layer of complication to your situation.

*2. Understand that you only have 20 days to request your Department of Licensing Hearing*You also should have been provided a document called the “DOL Hearing Request Form.” This allows you to request a hearing challenging a potential license suspension based on your breath test or alleged refusal to take one. This hearing with the Department of Licensing is separate from any criminal charge against you such as Driving Under the Influence. However, challenging your license suspension is part of my representation and this hearing is normally conducted over the phone in my office as your attorney.

*3. Do not turn to the police officer or prosecutor’s office for help*Once you have been arrested, you automatically find yourself in a court system that has two sides. You are on one side and the police and the prosecutor are the ‘other side.’ As much as you may like to believe otherwise, the ‘other side’ does not have your best interests in mind – it is simply not their job to look out for you. For any questions about your case, only speak with an experience criminal defense attorney.

*4. Do not rely on the internet for legal advice*I think we all fear the unknown, and of course you are going to turn to the internet to look for information about your situation. The problem is that, while some sites have accurate information, others do not. Some sites present unrealistic best or worst case scenarios, some are outdated, and others, unfortunately, are just flat out wrong and misleading. The best way to get reliable and accurate information is through an experienced DUI attorney.

5. Find the DUI attorney that is right for you

When choosing an attorney to represent you in your case, you should choose an attorney who works regularly in the DUI world, and is knowledgeable and experienced in this area of law. DUI defense is a very specialized area of practice and you need someone with this experience.

When choosing an experienced attorney, look at how long the attorney has been practicing in this area and whether they have a prosecutor’s background to give perspective.

Trust your instincts. You need to have complete trust in your attorney and their ability to provide you the most effective representation.

The Law Office of Andrew C. Huff is exactly the right firm to help good people facing DUI charges. Please call me anytime at 206-729-3477.

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