In a DUI case, the breath test results can send you to jail. Juries generally place great faith in breath tests, reasoning that the State wouldn’t use a breathalyzer that can’t be trusted. Technology has changed things. The first breath test devices used to prosecute DUI cases were mechanical and used solutions that could be verified as proper for use. Before being put into the police stations for use on actual DUI suspects, these machines were tested as much as could be expected given the technology of the day. The most recent breathalyzer, the Draeger 9510, is now being used throughout Washington State and it is controlled entirely by computer software. Despite it being possible to do so, the state has not subjected the Draeger software to rigorous testing. A public records request revealed an email wherein the decision was made by the state to “throw caution to the wind” and deploy the Draegers without rigorously testing the software. When software is not thoroughly tested, there can be unforeseen consequences. The Draeger is programmed to print out a full page document on completion of the breath test. This document is quite impressive, containing all sorts of information about the breath test such as length of blow, volume of breath, and of course, the breath test readings. The printout even has the date the Draeger was last calibrated (called a QAP) and this, of course, must show a date prior to the subject’s breath test being administered. One day, however, I came across a Draeger test printout that looked normal in all regards except that it showed that the calibration occurred in the year 2050! This was not the mistake of the operator. The correct date of calibration (2017) had been correctly keyed into the Draeger but later, without human intervention, the Draeger software changed that date to 2050. I expect by the time this blog is published, the state will have a perfectly logical explanation for this disturbing situation. However they explain it, we are left wondering how many other software glitches are running undetected in the background of the Draeger 9510. By electing not to rigorously test the software of the Draeger 9510, the state has added another feature to this technological marvel: Reasonable Doubt.
Questions? Call Jon Fox at (425) 274-9190.