District Court judges in Kitsap County recently ruled that all Washington breath tests are unreliable and excludes them from DUI cases. The breath test machine does not comply with Washington law and all test results are invalid. This ruling applied to Kitsap District Court cases currently, but it’s only the beginning for the rest of Washington.
Washington uses a Draeger Alcotest 9510 machine for DUI investigations. This machine replaced the old Datamaster machines several years ago with the promise of better technology. The Draeger machine measures alcohol using both infrared and electro chemical sensors, the two major methods of measuring breath alcohol. These results are then processed through Draeger’s own software that produces the final result. Police and prosecutors then use that result to convict drivers of DUI.
Under Washington law, the results that the machine displays must be rounded to the third decimal, but the machine instead truncated, or cut off the remaining numbers. This difference does not come out to anything significant, but the issue is whether the machine complies with the law as written. The District Court judges in Kitsap unanimously agreed that it did not.
Ever since the Draeger came out in Washington, one of the biggest issues attorneys had was that the software that Draeger used software that attorneys were not able to inspect. The machine is like a black box that we all had to trust is accurate and working properly. The state toxicologist’s job is to certify these machines and establish trust with the community that it is in fact working properly. Allegations here are that the toxicologist was aware that the machine didn’t comply with the law and swore under penalty of perjury that it did.