Daily Archives: September 13, 2008
As I’ve written in past posts (Secret Breathalyzer Software Still Secret), defense attorneys have repeatedly tried to gain access to the secret software used to run the various models of breath-testing machines. As the geeks say, "garbage in, garbage out": erroneous or badly written software will result in erroneous test results — and thousands of citizens wrongfully convicted of DUI. Yet, manufacturers have refused to turn the software code over, claiming "trade secrets". The real reason: neither they, the police nor the prosecution want the loss of public confidence that would result from disclosure of inaccurate and unreliable software.
Bottom line: Profits trump justice.
This wall of silence was breached some time ago when the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered the manufacturers of the AlcoTest 7110 to turn over the source code. See Secret Breathalyzer Software Finally Revealed. That code was analyzed by a software laboratory. To no one’s great surprise, the laboratory found the software to consist of no "trade secrets", but rather of non-proprietary and very primitive and defective code. As the experts concluded in their report:
The program presented shows ample evidence of incomplete design, incomplete verification of design, and incomplete “white box” and “black box” testing. Therefore the software has to be considered unreliable and untested, and in several cases it does not meet stated requirements. The planning and documentation of the design is haphazard. Sections of the original code and modified code show evidence of using an experimental approach to coding, or use what is best described as the “trial and error” method. Several sections are marked as “temporary, for now”. Other sections were added to existing modules or inserted in a code stream, leading to a patchwork design and coding style…
It is clear that, as submitted, the Alcotest software would not pass development standards and testing for the U.S. Government or Military. It would fail software standards for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as commercial standards used in devices for public safety…If the FAA imposed mandatory alcohol testing for all commercial pilots, the Alcotest would be rejected based upon the FAA safety and software standards…
Despite this beacon of light in the judicial darkness, the courts of other states continue to ignore the pleas of the accused to confront their accusers. Remember: in the courts of most states, a citizen is rebuttably presumed by law to be guilty if one of these machines reads .08% or higher. See my post Whatever Happened to the Presumption of Innocence? But cracks are appearing in the wall of silence. Courts in Florida, for example have ordered the source code turned over to the defense – a court order the manufacturers have refused to follow.
Yesterday, an Arizona court ordered the manufacturers of another breath-testing device, CMI Corporation’s Intoxilyzer 8000, to turn over the software code to the defense.
Lawyers Win Access to DUI-Test Software
Defense wants to test if Intoxilyzer is accurate