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.