WSP “Dragging” its Feet Installing the Draeger 9510

Since 2009 the Washington State Patrol has been looking to replace the current breath test machines, the BAC DataMaster, with the Alcotest 9510 manufactured by Draeger, a German company. It was originally anticipated that the Draeger would be installed in 2011; however, they are still not being used.

An analysis of the contracts being entered into by the Washington State Patrol indicates the analysis and evaluation of the Alcotest 9510 is still continuing. I have observed the machines at the WSP station at Roanoke in Seattle. The have been tested an appear ready to be used, but I suspect there are still software issues to be worked out. The Alcotest can provide a lot more information a lot quicker than the BAC DataMaster. The WSP is undoubtedly trying to figure out how to limit what to provide to defense counsel without looking like they are hiding anything.

The main difference between the DataMaster and the instrument by Draeger is the way the analsyis of the breath sample is accomplished. The DataMaster uses infrared spectrometry to quantify the level of alcohol. The Draeger machine uses infrared technology and electrochemical process to produce four results rather than the two produced by the DataMaster.

At the molecular level, the DataMaster measures a frequency of infrared light associated with the Carbon/Hydrogen bond of the ethyl alcohol molecule. The Draeger measures the Carbon/Oxygen bond of the ethyl alcohol molecule. This is supposed to prevent identifying acetone as alcohol, which is possible when I/R measures the Carbon/Hydrogen bond of the ethyl alcohol molecule. This is a problem because then the breath test could result in an inaccurately high reading.

In any event, it is curious that WSP is so slow in bringing forth these machines. When they are finally introduced into the field, there will be many legal challenges that I will be able to file to have the breath test results excluded as evidence.