Researchers Say a Breathalyzer Has Flaws, Casting Doubt on Countless Convictions

Megalith

24-bit/48kHz
Staff member
Joined
Aug 20, 2006
Messages
13,003
A software engineer and security researcher dug into the source code of Draeger’s widely used breathalyzers and found that they could produce incorrect breath test results. The discovery suggests that many drunk-driving prosecutions may be erroneous, but unfortunately, the research will not be pursued, as the German medical technology maker has threatened to sue.

The two distributed their early findings to attendees at a conference for defense lawyers, which Draeger said was in violation of a court-signed protective order the experts had agreed to, and the company threatened to sue. Their research was left unfinished, and a final report was never completed. Draeger said in a statement the company was protecting its source code and intellectual property, not muzzling research.
 

SeaFoam

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Oct 13, 2004
Messages
5,067
I didn't know Draeger made breath testers. Nobody around here uses them. Looks like the only ones that could possibly be overturned are ones that were just over the limit anyway, at least from what I read with the margin of error.
 

KarsusTG

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 27, 2010
Messages
3,272
Heck Georgia was giving kids DWI's even when they were 100% sober, as in NOTHING in their system. (just because the jack ass trooper knew better)

Ya, this is common. Also, even if you are under the .0825 limit, if you are not at .000 then you can still be charged with DUI.
 

Chupachup

Limp Gawd
Joined
Jan 12, 2014
Messages
435
<Insert futurama shocked gif here>
giphy.gif
 

Ocellaris

Fully [H]
Joined
Jan 1, 2008
Messages
19,062
Looks like they are mostly arguing over a 6% margin of error on some of the tests. If that 6% makes you fail, maybe you shouldn't have been driving in the first place.
 

_l_

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Nov 27, 2016
Messages
1,151
reminds me of radar guns I used to work on, 15%-20% tolerance regarding accuracy (that was in the early 90's)
 
  • Like
Reactions: N4CR
like this

oldmanbal

2[H]4U
Joined
Aug 27, 2010
Messages
2,600
The only breath reading they use in my state for trials is the one done at a police station/headquarters with the large machine that takes up an entire table. The ones administered in the field are merely a means of ascertaining if the accused requires removal from roads and follow up for dui tests. They can also take blood if consented to. Failure to comply with one of these options is a guaranteed/automatic DUI due to lack of compliance.

The fact that judges ignore field readings has always been an indication of how unreliable they can be sometimes. Alcohol can be absorbed into your mouth and throat, and if you have a full stomach, it will be venting out and mixing with your breath samples. Other than a blood test, which requires proper per individual analysis and evaluation, there isn't any other convenient generally indisputable standard.
 

Iratus

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Jan 16, 2003
Messages
1,562
Exactly, the station one is the one that counts in most cases. If you're still over the limit by the time you have that, you deserve everything you get.

The old 'get out' used to be to refuse the breath test and insist on a blood test, as it takes them time to get someone who can do it. That got wrapped in statutes in a lot of cases though.

Personally I can't fathom people that drink and drive anyway. I find even after a glass of wine (so legal) it's terrifying.
 

pgaster

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
May 17, 2008
Messages
1,368
So two guys, paid by a defense lawyer (so they had an agenda), found some corner cases where the testers are a bit off when near the legal limit. Yawn, they found what they were paid to find.
 
Last edited:

STEvil

2[H]4U
Joined
Oct 17, 2000
Messages
2,819
Exactly, the station one is the one that counts in most cases. If you're still over the limit by the time you have that, you deserve everything you get.

The old 'get out' used to be to refuse the breath test and insist on a blood test, as it takes them time to get someone who can do it. That got wrapped in statutes in a lot of cases though.

Personally I can't fathom people that drink and drive anyway. I find even after a glass of wine (so legal) it's terrifying.


I find it odd that a single glass of wine is enough to cause that, but everyone is different i guess.

Myself im not a big drinker but i can drink until i puke with only minimal effect on motor control (balance is shot though) and comprehension. Thats not to say i would not say im inebriated but my logical senses are still powerful enough to not just be an idiot.

There are some people who produce alcohol in their body naturally so it somewhat begs the question on if there should be a range for under the influence. Say .05-.08. But then theres also going to be drug influences..

Probably in the future the test will just be basic motor function and comprehension to test for impairment of multiple types. Too bad the judges will just keep up with the catch and release likely though.
 

daglesj

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
May 7, 2005
Messages
5,455
reminds me of radar guns I used to work on, 15%-20% tolerance regarding accuracy (that was in the early 90's)


Wasnt it even the laser guns that if pointed at a courtroom wall would state it was doing 5mph?
 

SDplus

Limp Gawd
Joined
May 11, 2012
Messages
140
But, isn't it widely known that breathalyzers only are an indicator, and to press any charges there HAS to be a blood test? Breathalyzers triggers on eating ice cream even, just because alcohol is used to clean the icecream machines (0 tolereance here), so usually when the indicator is low but above zero they ask a few extra questions. And if not satisfactory you have to go to the station for a blood-test. It is simply known that breathalyzers is simply not rigorous enough for court. I sincerely hope no country in the world fines just on breathalyzer result...
 

Hulahoops

Limp Gawd
Joined
Feb 27, 2008
Messages
355
In the UK you have a similar system as Oldmanbal's state, in essence the portable machine is used on the roadside and if you fail then you go to the police station for a test on the table top machine.
 

Teenyman45

2[H]4U
Joined
Nov 29, 2010
Messages
2,815
I like the other successful defense that yes, the person had consumed enough alcohol to put that person over the legal limit. HOWEVER because it takes time for the alcohol to be absorbed into the person's system the driver was technically not over the legal limit at the time the checkpoint field test was administered and only "drunk" by the time the drinker was brought to the station and given the full test.
 
Top