Washington State Patrol Upgrades its DUI Breath-Test Machines

The Washington State Patrol is replacing its old breath-test machines (BAC Machines) with sleek, fast, new $9,500 devices that are used to test drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024952858_wspbreathalyzerxml.html

While both BAC machines can measure the alcohol in a person’s system by analyzing a breath sample, the much smaller and sleeker replacement features a touch screen and Microsoft Windows software and can process information faster.

The State Patrol will place 83 of the new Dräger Alcotest 9510 machines in police and sheriff’s stations, jails and State Patrol divisions in northeast and southeast Washington before enough are available to use statewide. The machines will be used to test drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and San Juan County’s present BAC machines shall be replaced by the newer models.

Like the old devices, the new one measures alcohol in the lungs by analyzing exhaled breath. However, the new machines utilize a dry gas standard instead of a liquid solution to verify that the instrument is working properly. For years, liquid solutions have had to be mixed locally by scientists, monitored for temperature, and checked regularly by technicians. The Dräger’s dry gas contains a known concentration of alcohol, allowing the instrument to verify that a suspect’s breath alcohol is being measured accurately and reliably, the State Patrol says.

Only troopers, sheriff’s deputies and police officers certified in the Alcotest will be allowed to use the machines.

My opinion? Competent defense attorneys should investigate whether the police officers who arrest our clients for DUI and later operate these machines on our clients are, in fact, certified to operate these machines. If they’re not, then perhaps the BAC result can be suppressed.