Throughout the United States, police departments use Alcotest 9510 breathalyzers manufactured by the Draeger company. However, an evaluation ordered by the defense in a Washington state DUI case about a decade ago indicated that the Draeger breathalyzer has significant flaws that can cause incorrect breath test outcomes. Los Angeles and Orange County residents accused of driving under the influence should consult with a Yorba Linda DUI lawyer to ensure that your rights are fully protected with respect to your breathalyzer results.
The findings from the Washington researchers as well, as additional problematic results of a subsequent evaluation of Draeger’s device in a more recent (2015) case in Washington have caused doubts about multitudes of DUI convictions nationwide.
Research in the earlier Washington case was cut short due to successful legal action by Draeger, in which the manufacturer argued for the company’s right to maintain confidentiality of its intellectual property, in the form of the proprietary source code used in calibrating the Alcotest 9510. But, research experts in that original case did discover enough concerning information about the Draeger to distribute a preliminary report indicating detectible flaws that they assert can generate inaccurate breath test results.
Functional Issues in the Draeger Breathalyzer
The Draeger Alcotest 9510 contains two sensors that the device utilizes to quantify alcohol content in an individual’s breath sample. Light moving through the sample is measured by an infrared beam. And, a fuel cell is used in measuring the sample’s electrical current.
The breath test outcome should fall within an acceptable margin of test error within a thousandth of a decimal point in order for a test result to be correct. However, the researchers discovered that an escalated read-outs occurred under various environmental conditions and other predictable variables within the device. The inflated results during the evaluations raise important questions about potential false measurements of excessive breath alcohol content.
The 2015 Draeger Breathalyzer Evaluation
In the 2015 evaluation, the researcher was granted access to the source code used in the Alcotest 9510, though under rigid constraints. As in the earlier research, the second evaluation uncovered significant problems impacting alcohol breath test results, including:
- Insufficient compensation for ambient temperature.
- Insufficient explanation of temperature correction methods or validation of the sufficiency of such corrections.
- Lack of clarity in accounting for usual degradation of the device’s fuel cell—which measures the breath alcohol level—and insufficient validation of compensation for such degradation.
- Questionable routine systems for device recalibration that is based on usage frequency and operating conditions.
- Neglect of adjustment for typical fluctuations in breath temperatures through the course of a day—potentially causing up to 6% variation in an individual’s breath test result.
Continued Issues With, and Use of the Draeger Breathalyzer
Researchers examining the device to-date have consistently expressed skepticism that the Draeger Alcotest 9510 is capable of producing reliable measurements of breath alcohol, and they have advised that law enforcement officers interpret Draeger breath test results with great caution.
Also, Draeger has acknowledged that procedures for calibration and adjustment, other equipment and materials, and the humans conducting the tests in the field can all impact Alcotest 9510 breath test results.
Additionally, configurations used by individual states using the Draeger source code are unclear, making accuracy of test results even less certain, and clouding questions of who is responsible for a particular inaccurate test result.
Nevertheless, the Draeger Alcotest 9510 breathalyzer device remains in use in many states. A Yorba Linda DUI lawyer can help you understand any implications breathalyzer issues may have in your case, and can help you otherwise manage the complexities of a successful DUI defense in the California court system.