back to article Judge: Breath test firm must hand over source code

An Arizona Judge has approved requests to allow the examination of the software in a new generation of machines that examine blood alcohol levels of motorists. Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini ordered CMI, the manufacturer, to hand over the source code of the Intoxilyzer 8000 to representatives of defence …


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  1. Sooty


    the breath test is only the first line detection? I can't believe there are places that don't back them up with blood tests as it's the only accurate way to confirm blood alcohol level. A breath test only shows how much alcohol is on your breath, which is then used to determine blood alcohol. It is vulnerable to false positives!

  2. kain preacher Silver badge

    drink drive suspects

    Never heard a of such a thing Heard of DUI driving while under the influence, DWI driving while impaired, in the states.

    Both cover drugs and alcohol

    Oh when they do you the term to refer to being drunk, they say drunk divining, or drunken driving in the states .

  3. Jay


    secret sauce code?

  4. David Leigh
    Thumb Up

    Secret sauce....

    '...and ordered CMI to hand over its secret sauce code..'

    And there was me thinking that the drivers had been trying to hide their secret sauce - silly me!

  5. Pierre Silver badge

    Why not do the things properly?

    In civilized countries, breath tests are only used as indication that a blood test might be a good idea, the latest being the only acceptable input for the judiciary bone-cruncher. Now most country don't rely on "walk the line" tests either...

    These breath tests and, hem, "behavioural" tests are ok for small fines (like, for drunk loitering), NOT for drunk driver, who NEED to receive more than a slap on the wrist.

  6. Jon Wilson

    Secret Sauce

    Sauce code, eh?

    I'll get me coat. Mine's the one with BBQ run-off and dribble down the front.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    It's worse that you think

    There has been no peer reviewed studies which has showed that breath tests actually perform a valid measurement of blood alcohol levels. So instead, often by statute, it is mandated that the alcohol level in the breath is multiplied by a factor of 2100 to produce a "blood alcohol level". That "2100" is called the "partition ratio" and can vary widely between individuals as well as over tim ein the same individual.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US Prosecutors said...

    ..."arguing the request is a defence ploy designed to get their clients off the hook"

    And there's the crux of the matter. US prosecutors are not interested in justice, or it being proven that convictions are unsafe and have ruined innocent lives as a result. Just in getting as many sucessful prosecutions as possible, regardless of how ludicrous the claim.

  9. James

    Intoxilyzer 8000?

    ^^ LOL.

    With a name like that it's bound to be shite.

  10. Herby Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    All this sounds like...

    ...hanging chad redux. I agree that the source code should be available for inspection, that's what the vendor of the device should have done in the first place. The problem is that the devices are paid for by the very fines they produce (Radar speeding tickets sometime fall into this category). So, there is a vested interest to have as many "convictions" as possible, even when they are not founded in fact. For all we know, it prints out a sheet that says "drunk" for every 9 out of 10 tests it does. The assumption being that if the policeman has any suspicion he is probably right.

    To the vendor: if it is THAT secret, you shouldn't sell it anyway. A chemical analyzer is a pretty standard device. Anyone should be able to make one, compete on cost, and show us the code!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This machine is approved for use in the UK

  12. Colin Wilson

    FAO: James

    Names like that always remind me of the "products" spoofed by Dilbert :-)

    Gruntmaster 6000 anyone ?

    "'s a stripped-down version of the Gruntmaster 9000..."

  13. Neoc

    DUI testing

    I have worked for the local Law Inforcement as an IT person and I *know* for a fact that (at least in this region of the world):

    A) A positive breath test gets you pulled in for a blood test.

    B) The devices used by the cops (ie, breath testers, radars, etc) went through rigorous calibrations and are re-calibrated on a regular basis (a workmate spent 3 months on one of these calibration exercises).

    While the breath-test will never give a 100% accurate BAC level, it *will* give you an indication of whether the driver should be pulled for further testing, and do *that* with reasonable accuracy.

  14. Kanhef
    Thumb Down

    re: blood tests

    The problem with using blood tests is that they are taken and delivered much later than breath tests - most cops don't have the training or equipment to draw blood at the scene. The alcohol concentration decays with time, and not necessarily the same for everyone or on a linear fashion. So people can argue that the test assumes too high a decay rate and that they were at only 0.06 three hours earlier, not 0.18 .

  15. yeah, right.


    If they can check that the source code they get is the source code used to generate the program running on the questionable machines? Or are they going to get a "cleaned up" version?

  16. Rick
    Thumb Down

    "Secret Sauce" Works For me

    Texas now is trying to bypass the right to refuse and is just doing both the breath test and blood test. so basically what they are now saying is that rights of the people no longer matter but being this is the state that the "dubya" is from goes to show. they are also implementing street cameras as well though they are not lawful here they use them under the civil code and issue you a civil fine which you dont have to pay under penalty of law but they put a lein on your house or car.

  17. stranger on the road

    how good is the lawyers C and assembly?

    just wandering since the Secret Sauce Code, if released, will be released under a NDA

  18. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Where is the IT angle

    >>ordered CMI to hand over its secret sauce code....

    This is a cookery discussion...

  19. Kevin Rudd

    Which 13 herbs and spices.

    If they can be compelled to give over the source code for the device well it shouldn't be such a stretch for an enterprising lawyer to concoct a lawsuit that compels Coke and KFC to hand over the their "sauce code".

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    LADAR Speed Guns

    The same needs to happen with all the LASER speed guns used around the world. In particular the algorithm which decides if a reading is valid needs to be disclosed.

    <--- Looks kind of like the LASER warning symbol with different colours.

  21. AC
    Paris Hilton


    The handheld device is used to indicate whether it's worth pulling the driver in for two tests on a proper big ass machine. A positive result on the handheld unit itself will never secure prosecution as it's evidence is not concrete {does not give exact levels of alcohol present, just has traffic light indication}

    So if in the US they are trying to prove their point using JUST this machine then too right the cases should be {wrongly, in the sense of guilt, rightly, in the sense of doing things correctly} thrown out. Just a case of guilty people getting off because the pigs are too lazy to build a proper case.

    PH because even she's not that stupid and I'm so pleased that newer lame PH icon has died :D

  22. Ascylto

    That's Fine then ...

    CMI would rather pay more that a million dollars fine that reveal its secret sauce. Hmmm... sounds like there's something for the lawyers to get their teeth into there!

    Mine's the one with a mate's urine specimen in the inside pocket.

  23. graeme leggett

    Source code is not proof of effectiveness

    The gizmo has a sensor and other elements as well as the processing.

    The proof of its effectiveness should be in measurements of breath alcohol against a "gold standard" - if it gives consistent and precise results then it's working.

    My suspicion is that the defence are after trying to prove that errors in the source code mean that it MIGHT occaisionally misreport a result. And if it could, then can it be shown that it didn't misreport for the defendant who swears blind he'd only had a small lemonade and was weaving all over the road because a wasp got in through the window....

    Or the defence are up to the usual mix of lawyerish tricks.

  24. Adam Foxton
    Paris Hilton


    "We need to breathalyse you"

    "Can't you take a blood sample"

    "Well, if you insist"




    "Well, he's sober but at least when he comes to and drives off we'll get him for driving without due care and attention due to concussion"

    Also, surely it should be called Sauced code?

  25. Mike


    if i'm not mistaken, surely if the only evidence they have against these people is a breath test and not a blood test, all they need to do is prove that the breath test gives false positives and they get off, right?

    ok, defense lawyer takes out an approved breath test machine in the court room, does a breath test which gives a result of 0 showing no alcohol at all. now defense lawyer breathes in puts a drop of vodka on their tongue and blows in to machine again. machine claims they are drunk - case dismissed.

    not sure if they would be allowed to do this in the court room in front of the judge (not sure if there are rules about alcohol consumption in court), so it might need to be done elsewhere and filmed then the video submitted as evidence, but doing it in the court room would make the point in the most effective way.

  26. Anonymous Coward


    > In civilized countries, breath tests are only used as indication that a blood test might be a good idea

    here (England) conviction on the basis of breath test only is clearly mandated by statute and has been for a long time. But not, I believe, using the results of a hand held portable analyser - the hand-helds only give an indication to pull the motorist in for test with a rather larger and suposedly more reliable and accurate analyser at the police station. However, contaminated mouthpieces are something of a problem: policeman swabbing mouthpiece with alcoloh before handing it to motorist, ostensibly to make sure it's clean but you may imagine that there could be a different motivation.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Rick - right to refuse

    Right to refuse what here? Could Texans refuse to be breathalysed in the past or have I got this wrong?

    BTW In the UK refusal to provide a specimen is treated the same as providing a failed specimen and gets you a 12 month ban.

  28. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Intoxilyzer 8000?



  29. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    @ NEOC

    "A workmate spent three months on one of these calibration exercises"

    Jesus, that must have been a tough three months: "OK, today we're calibrating for 4 times over the limit - drink up!".

  30. Hud Dunlap
    Black Helicopters

    At Rick At Neoc

    If you don't pay the fine they put a warrant out for your arrest. Yeah I know it is a civil offense but they have manipulated the law to make the penalties criminal. And they don't even have to notify you by registered mail. Regular mail is ok.

    And quit blaming Dubya. The Democrats have been pushing the same thing for years.

    Neoc, Breathalysers are only accurate if the victim doesn't burp. And as far a calibration is concerned, I work with a lot of calibrated equipment in the Semiconductor industry. If the calibration procedure does not match the usage it is invalid. Even if it is traceable.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So why should the source code be made available? nobody ever asked for circuit diagrams or schematics of the analysers. Surely a calibration certificate that the device measures breath alcohol content sufficiently accurately should be enough. All seems rather spurious to me. Still i guess at least the lawyers'll do well out of it all, and maybe a few drunks'll get with dui or dwi or whatever.

    Heh, while they're at it I wonder if they checked whether the cops had been properly trained to use the new devices? or whether the drunks had received adequate training in blowing into the machine...

  32. Daniel Wilkie


    How come these breathalysers are so massive? Last time I got breathalysed in a random stop check here in the UK it was a little handheld unit they used rather than something taking up half the back seat...

  33. Luther Blissett

    The secret pseudocodes have the world's most expensive curly brackets

    int main (int n, char** a) /* As if! */


    for (status = SOBER_AS_A_JUDGE , breath = NO; breath = OH_YES_BABY_GIVE_IT_ME ; ) ;

    return (status = DRUNK_AS_A_LORD);


    /* the header file is left as an exercise for the reader */

  34. Mike Banahan

    @AC - Why?

    People should ask for the circuit diagrams too. It's not good enough to calibrate these things on standardised samples and then argue that that 'proves' they are accurate. For all we know the software has arithmetic overflow or underflow when converting the a/d converter values into parts per thousand, it may have provable race conditions, dependencies on date/time or any one of dozens of typical software-only faults. Similar voltage-level dependencies could easily exist in the analogue circuitry - only a detailed design review by honest third parties can give good assurances to the contrary.

    The fact that they won't hand the code over strongly suggest that it's never been quality audited or properly reviewed and may well indeed have dozens of stupid bugs in it.

    I don't want to see drunken drivers get off, but neither should they be subject to randomness in their convictions.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    for the same reason

    they ask for the code for red-light cameras and speed cameras. Some company is selling a piece of hardware that's purely and completely designed to screw you, mr(s). average citizen drving down the road and if they can jigger the results with funny code you are going to be nailed to a cross and burned (or the legal equivalent).

    If they have nothing to fear, they have nothing to hide (where have we heard that before)...

    In any event, if you are liable for damages or punishment, you have a legal right to see the evidence against you and how it was gathered and that it wasn't "shaped" along the way.

    p.s. if a later blood or urine test proves you are over the limit, you need to be fried anyway!

  36. kain preacher Silver badge

    um same here

    ight to refuse what here? Could Texans refuse to be breathalysed in the past or have I got this wrong?

    BTW In the UK refusal to provide a specimen is treated the same as providing a failed specimen and gets you a 12 month ban.

    Same thing herer in California, except your auto rates go up to

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