March 4th, 2015
For more than 30 years, Washington state law enforcement has been using a breath testing machine known as the BAC Verifier Datamaster to test people who have been arrested for DUI. By today's standards, this machine is antiquated technology. A Washington State Patrol email your author obtained in connection with a DUI case describes the data master "obsolete." In recent years, the state patrol has had difficulty maintaining this machine. It is out of warranty, and replacement parts were difficult to find. Approximately 5 years ago, the state patrol embarked upon a search for a replacement machine. The new machine, the Draeger Alcotest, was purchased and approved for use more than three years ago. However, for reasons that are yet to be determined, it was not placed into police departments for use with live subjects until just a few months ago. The true reasons for the delay in placing into the field what otherwise would appear to be a brand-new state-of-the-art machine have not been revealed by the state patrol. However, it is expected that discovery in upcoming criminal cases will provide the answer.
At this time, the Draeger has been installed in police stations in a few counties in Washington state. What makes the Draeger unique is that whereas the DataMaster breath test machine provided two breath test readings, the Draeger provides four breath test readings. The individual is required to blow twice into the machine, the machine analyzes each breath sample using two separate technologies: Infrared Spectroscopy and Electrochemical Analysis. If you are reading this after you have been arrested for a DUI, you can tell whether you were tested on the old machine or the new machine by looking at the breath test document.
The author of this blog has already spoken at three separate seminars devoted to educating attorneys about the Draeger and is currently working on a new chapter in the book Defending DUIs in Washington that will detail the operation of the machine and potential defenses. This chapter will be co-authored by attorney Ted Vosk, who is nationally known for his advocacy for integrity in breath testing.
Questions? Call Jon Fox at (425) 274-9190.