Forget Voting Machines, Open The Code For Breathalyzers

from the take-me-drunk-i'm-home dept

As electronic voting machines have become popular, there’s been a big call for the companies that make them to release their code for public scrutiny. The most notorious vendor, Diebold, continues to resist, but the clamor for opening the code of other machines is growing, with breathalyzers the latest target. Laywers for 150 people charged with drunk driving in Florida are asking to see the source code of the breathalyzers that got their clients arrested. The software for the device in question was approved by the state in 1993, but has seen numerous changes since then, and an earlier ruling said defendants could look at manuals and schematics for the machines. The company that makes them, of course, says the 25-year-old-software is a trade secret and opposes the motion.

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Comments on “Forget Voting Machines, Open The Code For Breathalyzers”

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Beck says:

DUI Blog Explains Problems with the Technology

Excellent reading in the DUI Blog:

If you read here you will see that the only reason the evidence from these machines is admissible in court is because there are laws that declare it admissible. Otherwise it would be very easy for a defense lawyer to prove to a jury that the test results are unreliable (assuming you are even allowed to have a jury). These machines are highly fallible, both in their mechanics, and in the calculations they perform to arrive at a blood alcohol value.

Colby (profile) says:

Re: Re: DUI Blog Explains Problems with the Technology

Maybe the whole reason there is a discussion on this webpage is that non-drunk people(sober), are being falsely charged with drunk driving… Or, at the very least, people who are not comitting a crime are being prosecuted for one. It seems to me that the bigger problem is that there is no way for a person to prove his innocense should he be in the right and a cop made the error. To allow a device, which has obvious fallacies, should have never been considered in determing whether somone is charged $8,000+ for being a “drunk driver”. Duh? This is along the same lines, in my mind, as the speed photos they have in our town. The pictures do not show nearly enough detail to identify a person conclusively. Innocent until proven guilty? Or innocent until someone else decides your not? Cops, judges, etc. are all actually REAL people. They are prone to all the same mistakes as anyone else. Why would we not have a system in place that accounted for this? The whole underlying system in our government – one which would ensure a government official had no more power than a anyone else, and could not be held above the law – was that of a “checks and balances.” I am quite bitter on this subject as I have been harassed by cops for both good and bad reasons. e.g. “bad reason” – Driving home from work at 3:30am, to be pulled over because the cop wants to know what I’m up to at that hour. “good reason” – I ran a yellow light, that could have possibly endangered someone else. The cop pulls me over and gives me a ticket.

It seems we are so powerless to do anything in our own defense anymore. It costs so much for a lawer, court fees, etc. That no person in the majority of Americans who make less than $40,000 per year, can afford a lawyer, missing work, etc. Only people who have money, have the ability to do anything, should they be innocent. Only people who have money, have the ability to do anything, should they be guilty.

nostranonymous says:

To the judgemental asshats from previous comments.

Let’s not forget that it’s perfectly LEGAL to drive with a BAC of less than .08

Don’t tell me to not drink and drive because I have EVERY right to do so to a point depending on how large of a person I am and how long I wait before driving.

This is where the problem is. What if I decide to have 1 beer, I wait an hour, and drive home with a BAC of .05? Unfortunately, because of a faulty source code, the breathalizer says I have a BAC of .09.

I am wrongfully accused of driving while excessively intoxicated and may even spend a night in jail because of a company that doesn’t care since they make money off the punishment of others.

Yes, it’s dangerous to drive while intoxicated. But it’s also dangerous to drive while you’re sleepy or to drive when you’re over the age of 65. And those people are not punished for endangering the lives of others…

Rikko says:

Re: To the judgemental asshats from previous comme

You sure about that?
In Canada there is the .08 “rule”, but you can be charged with any alcohol level in your blood. That’s left to the discretion of the officer.

I await the day when there is no more manual driving.. Only then can these problems be solved.

Dave says:

Re: Re: To the judgemental asshats from previous comme

“In Canada there is the .08 “rule”, but you can be charged with any alcohol level in your blood. That’s left to the discretion of the officer.”
Technically, the law varies by state, but the federal funding leash has them pretty much uniform. It is, in fact, a specific fixed limit. .07% blood alcohol, and you’re Joe Average, who just stopped to loosen up on the way home. .08%, and you’re a child-killing, drunken SOB. Kinda makes you hope that watever you’re being tested by is accurate, doesn’t it?

DGK12 says:

Point, Set;

You don’t have to drink an alcoholic beverage to consume alcohol. Remember than some cough medications have alcohol in them.

If for some reason you are given a Breathalyzer test and the device is not accurate, you could be falsely accused and get a DUI.

Here’s a point; ‘Trade secret’ is a secret which gives a product a competitive edge over competition. When information is called into court to dispute how a determination was made, that means that it MUST be brought to court. The Sixth Amendment assures the right to face ones accuser -in this case, the Breathalyzer made this judgement. I believe this also applies to questioning how the judgement was made, and if their is question as to its legitimacy, then ‘trade secret’ or no, they’ve got to do it.

I believe that this is a legitimate claim, considering that the makers don’t want to show the courts to see how they’ve programmed these devices. I doubt Corporate Espionage extends to a jury of randomly selected individuals. Remember Apple was found guilty of illegally using the courts to do their own investigation, trying to use ‘trade secret’ to hide from the truth.

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