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Washington Breath Test Machines-What’s the Status?

Posted Friday, July 27, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Washington has approved three breath testing machines for DUI investigations: 1) the Datamaster, 2) the Datamaster CDM, and 3) The Draeger Alcotest 9510. The first two machines, the Datamaster and e Datamaster CDM are being phased out in favor of the German-manufactured Draeger Alcotest 9510.

All three machines use a method called Infrared Spectroscopy to measure a sample of breath for its alcohol content. The Draeger Alcotest 9510 uses an additional method called electrochemical cell technology.

The basic operation of infrared breath testing devices is quite simple. You blow into the device and a sample of your breath is captured in a “sample chamber.” If you’ve consumed alcohol, that sample of your breath not only contains air, but it also contains alcohol molecules. Once the machine has a sample of your breath, a light is shone through the sample chamber – through the sample of your breath – and is detected by a photocell at the other end of the chamber. The alcohol molecules in your breath will absorb some of the light, so not all of the light will make it to the photocell. The machine then calculates the difference between how much light reaches the photocell when there is nothing in the sample chamber and how much light reaches the photocell with your breath in the sample chamber.

This process provides an indirect measurement of your blood alcohol content because the machine is testing your breath, not your blood. The blood alcohol content is obtained by applying a presumed “blood/breath partition ratio”. This partition ratio is based on the assumption that there is a fixed ratio between the alcohol concentration in the blood and in the air in the lungs. In the 1950’s, scientists determined that a ratio of 2100 to 1 was the best estimate of the blood/breath ratio for most of the population. That is, for every gram of alcohol in the air above the blood, there are 2100 grams of alcohol in the blood.

Both the Datamaster and Datamaster CDM have been used in Washington for years. However, many of these machines are so old that the manufacturer no longer provides parts for repair. When they break down or require parts to be changed, the Washington State Patrol must find spare parts on other unused machines until ALL breath test machines have been replaced by the Draeger Alcotest 9510.

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Arrested for DUI? What You Should Know

Posted Friday, July 20, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

As a criminal defense attorney representing those accused of, among other things Driving Under the Influence (DUI), I routinely receive calls from people just arrested who are feeling completely overwhelmed. No matter the circumstances, you will be dealing with a wide range of emotions and questions, including “what happens now?”In addition to having an effective and skilled attorney on your side to represent and guide you through the process, there are a few other things to keep in mind when arrested for a DUI.

  • If you are arrested and show a BAC of .08% or more—even if you are not later convicted—you could face some administrative penalties, including a potential minimum 90-day license suspension. If you refuse to take a breath test, you could face a license suspension of a year or more.

  • A DUI conviction comes with mandatory fines potentially up to $5,000.00. Other penalties include jail time, further license suspension, Ignition Interlock Device requirements and probation.

  • A court summons will normally be mailed to you following your initial arrest and the rules require you attend your court date. At your first hearing called an Arraignment, you will plead Not Guilty and a Pre-Trial Hearing is then set.

  • You will need an alcohol evaluation, which determines whether you have any level of dependency with alcohol.

  • Complete a Victim’s Impact Panel class.

Being charged with a DUI can definitely cause stress and anxiety in your life. The best thing you can do is hire an experienced DUI defense attorney. Please call me at 206-729-3477 to ask questions about your case or set up a meeting.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules for Cell Phone Privacy Interests

Posted Friday, June 22, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

When the government wants to track an individual’s location through cell phone records over an extended period of time, they need to get a warrant, says the U.S. Supreme Court in a major ruling on privacy.

As most know, anyone can track your whereabouts at any time of the day with cell phone technology. The question answered by the Court today was “what limits should be placed on law enforcement to do this?”

Carpenter v. United States was a 2011 case involving an individual suspected of various crimes around town. Police went to the third-party telephone company and asked to get his transactional records from his cell phone in order to track his whereabouts. This information is data that pings off cell phone towers and then collected by these companies. The information obtained by police led to his conviction.

The 5-4 opinion was written by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the four most liberal justices. Justice Roberts found that cell phones are now a part of us and play a “pervasive and insistent part of daily life,” Roberts wrote. Information obtained from these records is still accessible to police, but with a warrant.

The ruling is a major victory for advocates of increased privacy rights who argued more protections were needed when it comes to the government obtaining information from a third party such as a cell phone company.

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Traffic Ticket by Radar

Posted Thursday, June 21, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Radar guns or Speed Measuring Devices work by sending and receiving radio signals. They work by directing a radio signal towards a vehicle, then receiving the same signal as it bounces off the vehicle. Using what is known as the Doppler Effect, the device can calculate the speed of the vehicle based on changes in the value of the returning signal.

Law enforcement agencies have also begun moving towards Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology, which operates in much the same way as radar, but using lasers instead of radio waves.

Regardless of which technology the agency uses, these devices are sensitive tools of measurement that require regular calibration and adjustment. Radar guns, for example, require the use of a tuning fork to make sure that the device is producing accurate readings. Manufacturers of the devices recommend calibration before every use, but states may require testing and calibration much less frequently.

One of the ways we challenge speed through radar is to review the calibration records for the device that measured your speed and offer it into evidence in court. If the device wasn’t calibrated within the required timeframe or wasn’t calibrated correctly, this could be grounds for dismissal. Occasionally, an officer may believe they can calibrate the radar gun without using the tuning fork. However, If this wasn’t done, it could be additional grounds for a dismissal.

Officers must also go through approved and certified training programs before operating these devices, so a lack of training or experience could also affect the case.

If you know for a fact that you weren’t speeding or you simply don’t want it on your record, call me and let’s discuss your case. Most likely, I will be able to keep your ticket off your record and protect those insurance rates.

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More Problems with the Draeger Alcotest 9510 Breath Machine

Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Washington state’s new breath test machine the Draeger Alcotest 9510 uses two sensors to measure alcohol content in a breath sample: An infrared beam that measures how much light goes through the breath, and a fuel cell that measures the electrical current of the sample. The results should be about the same and within a small margin of error – usually within a thousandth of a decimal point. If the results are too far apart, the test will be rejected.

However, reports have found that under some conditions the breath machine can return an inflated reading – a result that could also push a person over the legal limit. One reason is the apparent lack of adjustment made by the machine of a person’s breath temperature. Breath temperature can fluctuate throughout the day, but can also wildly change the results of an alcohol breath test. Without correction, a single digit over a normal breath temperature of 34 degrees centigrade can inflate the results by six percent – enough to push a person over the limit.

The Washington State Patrol still claims the machine should correct the breath temperature to prevent false results. According to the WSP, the quadratic formula corrects warmer breath downward. But the code doesn’t explain how the corrections are made and the corrections may be insufficient if the formula is faulty.

Issues with the code notwithstanding, Washington chose not to install a component to measure breath temperature, according to testimony in a 2015 hearing, and later confirmed by Draeger. The Washington State Patrol said they “tested and approved the instrument that best fit our business needs,” and believes the device can produce accurate results without the breath temperature sensor.

The code is also meant to check to ensure the device is operating within a certain temperature range set by Draeger, because the device can produce incorrect results if it’s too hot or too cold. But the report said a check meant to measure the ambient temperature was disabled in the state configuration.

When asked, a Washington State Patrol spokesperson would not say if the breathalyzer was configured to allow breath tests outside its operational temperature range, saying only that the device “has been tested and validated in various ambient temperatures.”

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