Archive for August 23rd, 2007

Judge: Divulge Breathalyzer Code…or Else

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

As I mentioned a few days ago, courts around the country are finally beginning to understand that a breathalyzer test result is no better than the software that runs its program.  As a result, a few courageous judges are starting to pierce the secrecy of how breathalyzers work — ordering manufacturers to divulge the software code that determines what the blood-alcohol reading will be (see "Secret Breathalyzer Software Still Secret"). 

Prosecutors are understandably reluctant to give this to the defense, and happily hide behind the manufacturers’ continued refusal to divulge the code on the laughable grounds of "trade secrets".

The latest in this battlefront:


Judge Tells Breath-Test Maker to Release

Code

Sarasota, FL  Aug. 19  -  The company that manufactures the state’s drunken-driving breath-test machines must turn over the computer code that runs the machines or face stiff fines, a county judge has ruled.

Defense attorneys have argued that having their experts examine the Intoxilyzer 8000’s "source code" is the only way to ensure the machines correctly calculate a driver’s blood-alcohol content.

The Intoxilyzer 8000’s first glitch was discovered in April, a month after it was implemented, when state officials realized it failed in certain situations. The state then upgraded the software in machines across the state.

In Manatee and Sarasota counties, more than 32 DUI cases are delayed because Kentucky-based CMI Inc. has not responded to a subpoena ordering the company to turn over the source code for the Intoxilyzer 8000, Sarasota County Judge Kimberly Bonner wrote.

"The failure of CMI to comply with this court’s subpoena has created a tremendous backlog of cases," Bonner wrote.

The judge found the company in contempt and gave it 20 days to turn over the source code or it will be fined $3,200 per day, or $100 per case that cannot move forward in the case. Other cases not covered in the ruling are affected as well, the judge wrote.

The company has said that the code is a trade secret. It did not respond to the Sarasota County case, but took the issue to the Daviess District Court in Kentucky.

A judge there quashed the subpoena for the source code. But Bonner said that order has no jurisdiction over Florida courts.


So, just what is it that the manufacturers are so afraid to reveal about these machines which determine guilt or innocence?


(Thanks to Andrew Switlyk.)

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