Archive for May, 2009

Glad I wasn’t on this flight!

LONDON, England (CNN) — Police arrested an American Airlines pilot who failed a Breathalyzer test at London’s Heathrow Airport on Wednesday, the airline and police said Thursday.

The pilot was due to fly a London-to-Chicago, Illinois, route leaving Heathrow at 10:15 a.m. He was replaced, and the flight departed at 11:30 a.m., the airline said.

It declined to name the pilot.

London’s Metropolitan Police said he was a 57-year-old who was arrested 20 minutes before the plane was due to take off.

He took a blood test, the results of which are not yet available, the American Airlines‘ pilots’ union said.

Arrests of drunken pilots are “quite infrequent,” said a police spokesman who declined to be named, in line with police policy. “They are not everyday occurrences.”

The police declined to say how far over the limit the pilot was.

He was released on bail to face a possible court appearance in July.

Full story

Yikes!

A court-ordered audit of the source code that powers a breathalyzer machine has uncovered serious bugs and technical deficiencies. The professional code reviewers contend that the software is far below industry standards for quality and that it contains programming errors. The results of this review have raised serious questions about the viability of such devices as a law enforcement tool.

Over the past several years, DWI defendants have increasingly challenged the accuracy of field breathalyzers, contending that the machines are potentially fallible and do not provide a sufficient degree of accuracy to justify using them as the sole basis on which guilt is determined.

In several cases, defendants have asked the courts to mandate source code reviews so that the software that runs the devices can be tested and evaluated for quality. Courts in Florida, Minnesota, and several other states have granted such requests, within certain parameters. In instances where the breathalyzer companies have declined to make code available for such reviews, Judges have been forced to throw out cases or reduce the charges against defendants.

In an ongoing DWI case in New Jersey, where the source disclosure issue escalated to the state’s Supreme Court, breathalyzer company Draeger was forced to submit its code for independent review. The software review summaries published by the expert source code auditors indicate that the underlying software that powers the Draeger breathalyzer exhibits potentially serious flaws.

Two reviews have been published. One review, which was conducted by SysTest, was commissioned by Draeger. The second review, conducted by Base One, was commissioned by the defendant. The reviews differ in scope and offer different conclusions, but they both agree that the code falls below industry-standard best practices and that it contains bugs.

Full story

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court’s decision to require production of the source code used by breath testing machines. This code is responsible for calculating the estimate of blood alcohol content which frequently is the only relevant piece of evidence in drunk driving (DUI) cases. When Dale Lee Underdahl and Timothy Arlen Brunner were both charged with DUI in separate cases in 2006 and 2007, they sought access to the source code for the Intoxilyzer 5000EN.

State officials resisted the defendants’ requests, claiming the software controlling the device was not relevant and, in any case, it was private information under the sole control of the machine’s manufacturer, CMI Inc. CMI claimed the information was a “trade secret” and refused a district court order to produce the code. This led to the prospect that the charges against Underdahl and Brunner would be dismissed for lack of evidence, so before this could happen, the state asked the court of appeals to strike down both discovery requests. The appeals court agreed with the state.

The supreme court found fault with the reasoning of the appeals court and split the difference. It upheld Brunner’s request for the code and turned down Underdahl’s. In a partial dissent, Justices Alan C. Page and Paul Anderson explained the source code’s importance while arguing that Underdahl’s case was identical to Brunner’s.

Full story