The New Breath Test -7110 Alcotest

New Jersey utilized the Smith and Wesson Breathalyzer (S&W) for many decades. The problems with this machine were legion. The machine was dependant on the operator to balance, read and report results. The test was therefore replete with operator error, intentional false results and incorrect readings. The tests themselves and the testing of the machine were dependent on the accuracy of solution ampoules. The machines became ancient and the gauges, needles and thermostats were actually warped and deteriorating. Everyone wanted a new device but be careful what you wish for.

The Dreager 7110 Alcotest was presented by the State as the answer. This device is self balancing and prints the results thereby eliminating intentional false readings by the operator. The testing itself is state of the art computer design, utilizing two methodologies that theoretically prove each other. The tests are preceded and followed by simulated checks of the machine thereby eliminating the chance for malfunction. The device can theoretically be programmed to eliminate environmental errors and false results caused by individual physical differences.

The reliability of the machine was attacked for three years in a case called State v. Chun. Many of the State's claims were proven to be false or greatly exaggerated. It seemed that for every problem with the Smith and Wesson that is correctly by the Dreager, another problem arises. Since these problems are internal and embedded in computer software or hardware they are much more difficult for an attorney to contest. However the machine is new to the State as well and techniques to defeat the readings are constantly being developed. The fight goes on. I have beaten the machine in many cases.

The S&W conducted one light spectrometry test. Sample breath was mixed with a known solution that reacted to alcohol in the sample. The S&W measured the difference between the amount of light penetrating a reference solution and one mixed with breath from a subject. The difference was an indication of the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of the subject based upon a ratio, blood to breath, of 2100/1.

The Alcotest works on the same principal ratio. This has been and always will be a contentious assumption since only 10% of the population has the magic 2100/1 absorption rate in their bodies. This argument was eliminated with the S&W by numerous case decisions. However I hope it is has been born anew concerning the 7110.

The Alcotest conducts an infrared (IR) test and an electric current (EC) test on the breath sample. The IR is similar to the S&W, however, the tests are on the samples themselves and not mixed with a solution. This eliminates another source of false positives. The IR emits an infrared light to a detector. A baseline reading is then compared to a reading in the presence of the sample. Alcohol absorbs some light. The difference is calculated by the BAC ratio. The EC compares the flow of electricity through a fuel cell with and without the presence of the sample. The increase in flow in the presence of alcohol is calculated by the machine into a BAC reading.

The two tests must be within a specified tolerance to prove. A second set of readings is required within two minutes and also must be within an approved tolerance. The before and after control tests must prove and be within time. The simulated solution used for the control tests must be within certification. The operator must be properly certified. The testing thresholds must be pretested. The fuel cell must be within specification. The temperature probes must match and be certified. Error messages must be examined.

In addition to these areas the subject must be watched by the operator for 20 minutes before testing. The individual temperature and physicality of the subject and the environment of the test must not be abnormal. The mouthpiece must be changed between tests. Certain categories of people cannot take the test.

In addition the internal memory (data download) of the machine must be examined to determine if any recurring anomalies exist that would not be obvious in one isolated test cycle. Internal pre and post diagnostic tests are in this data. Repair reports may be buried or incomplete but the repair record is on this data download.

These are just a few of the voluminous areas that must be examined to ascertain proper machine operability. The State does not have to disprove a problem in order for the readings to be admitted unless the defense raises the issue. In just this short recitation it is obvious that the machine has issues. Unfortunately most attorneys are not familiar with this new machine. An attorney who knows what to ask for, what to look for and what he is looking at is needed to raise these concerns. Consultation is free, give me a call.