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.

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