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Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects DUI Challenges Based On Buggy Software 391

Posted by Soulskill
from the technology-always-works-perfectly dept.
bzzfzz writes "In a case with parallels to the Diebold Voting Machine fiasco, Minnesota's Supreme Court upheld the reliability of the Intoxilyzer 5000EN breath testing machine on a narrow 4-3 vote. Source code analysis during the six-year legal battle revealed a number of bugs that could potentially affect test results. Several thousand DUI cases that were waiting on the results of this appeal will now proceed. The ruling is one in a series of DUI-related court victories for police and prosecutors. Other recent cases upheld a conviction of a person with no evidence that the vehicle had been driven and convictions based solely on urine samples that may only show impairment hours before driving. The Intoxilyzer 5000EN is now considered obsolete, and replacement devices are being rolled out, with the last jurisdictions in the state scheduled to retire their 5000ENs by the end of the year."
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Minnesota Supreme Court Rejects DUI Challenges Based On Buggy Software

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  • Minnesota, eh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @02:37PM (#40470311)

    We're the only state that can lock you up for life without a trial; all it takes is a judge to agree that there's a risk you could offend again. In other words, you serve your sentence, and then an unappealable, arbitrary decision, by one guy, can have you spend the rest of your life in jail. Our laws in this state are so bad that the European Union refuses to extradite people here in several cases. I am not surprised that they just basically crapped in the pool of civil rights and then shrugged and went on with their business.

    We've convicted people of DUI for walking down the street. Seriously. It was upheld on the basis that he could have gotten in a motor vehicle, because he had his car keys on him. Bonus: The car didn't even run.

    • Re:Minnesota, eh. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @02:44PM (#40470403)

      Well, shit.

      - scratches Minnesota off the list of possible places to live.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @02:47PM (#40470441)
      And to top it all off, our food is bland, and a kid can't even take a porn star to the prom without an uproar. This state is whack.
    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      We've convicted people of DUI for walking down the street. Seriously. It was upheld on the basis that he could have gotten in a motor vehicle, because he had his car keys on him. Bonus: The car didn't even run.

      Do you have a source for that story? Because I've not heard about that happening. The only story I can find on Google is about a woman who was seen with an "unsteady gait" walking towards her car, and got pulled over because of it (the officer using the unsteadiness as probable cause, which is a stretch but still).

      • Re:Minnesota, eh. (Score:5, Informative)

        by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @03:16PM (#40470783)

        Do you have a source for that story? Because I've not heard about that happening.

        It was a local only story; It ran on the Star Tribune and WCCO also picked it up sometime last summer. Unfortunately, neither site maintains a (free) searchable archive, so I can't give you anything more than that. Sorry. What I can do is point you in the direction of an expert on the matter locally: Chuck Ramsay [mndwidefenseblog.com], who won last year's Attorney of the Year award for this state and specializes in DUI convictions.

        Some highlights from the website include: Cases pending where a vehicle can be seized by the government for suspicion of DUI when a conviction is not obtained. Minnesota also has a habit of destroying evidence used in DUI convictions after 1 year regardless of if a case is still on appeal or not (by law, you can request a retest of any positive result by a different lab; But if the sample isn't available for retesting, this obviously poses a legal problem). There are also widespread fraud regarding log entries for maintenance of the machines; Officers literally xerox old logs, change the dates, and put them back into the official record. This has also been upheld by the Court; Go through the archives on the blog, you'll find all the citations you need there.

    • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @03:04PM (#40470655) Homepage Journal

      Most if not all states will lock up mentally ill people if they are a danger to themselves or others. The difference is that it's not "for life" but rather just until the next hearing, which may be anywhere from less than a week for a person just entering the mental-health-court system to more than a year away for those who have obvious, chronic, problems that can't be sufficiently treated to allow the person to be released. The other difference is that it's to a locked mental hospital not to a prison.

      Also, many if not most states treat "highly dangerous sex offenders" basically the same way as MN under "civil commitment" laws. There may be a trial, but it's typically a civil trial and by the time the state decides they want to keep you locked up, they've got enough evidence to convince a jury to the level required in a civil case. In some states this is for a period of time and they have to do a new trial but the reality is, once you've been locked up under civil commitment, you likely won't get out until your health deteriorates from old age enough that even if you still hold dangerous attitudes you won't be a danger to the public if released.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        The difference is that it's not "for life" but rather just until the next hearing

        Much like copyright is established for a limited time. It's limited until the next extension act.

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      In other words, you serve your sentence, and then an unappealable, arbitrary decision, by one guy, can have you spend the rest of your life in jail.

      It sounds like you believe the sole purpose of prison is revenge against the offender. I don't want to live in a society where that's the purpose of justice.

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @03:24PM (#40470881)

        It sounds like you believe the sole purpose of prison is revenge against the offender. I don't want to live in a society where that's the purpose of justice.

        There's no belief here. Our country has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any country. Any [wikipedia.org]. And the rate accelerated dramatically since 1980, and continues to climb steeply year by year. Obviously this is not a sustainable trend; But it's quite clear that America has a very different perspective on what "Justice" is than the rest of the world... I'll leave you to your own opinions on what that perspective is. We also have the highest rate of capital punishment of any country, though if you removed Texas from the statistics, we would lose that distinction... so it is debatable. And we continue to expand extrajudiciary action: Guantanamo bay, seizing foreign nationals on foreign soil and indefinately detaining them... and we are also exporting our own citizens to other countries for indefinite detainment under semi-secret reciprocity agreements.

        There is little doubt in the international community that the United States has become a police state, and continues to expand its use of military and covert force to extend its judiciary practices worldwide.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          We don't have a different perspective on Justice, we simply have a for-profit prison industry.

        • I won't speak to capital punishment rates, since in many US states capital punishment is a de facto life sentence.

          However, America was no higher than 5th in executions per capita in 2011.

          The United States carried out 43 of the world's 676 or more officially-acknowledged executions last year.

          Some countries with higher totals:

          * Iraq - 68
          * Iran - 360 or more
          * Saudi Arabia - 82

          Some smaller countries with higher rates than America:
          * Yemen - 41 or more executions

          Source:

          https://www.amnesty.org/en/news/death-penalt [amnesty.org]

      • It sounds like you believe the sole purpose of prison is revenge against the offender. I don't want to live in a society where that's the purpose of justice.

        I hope you don't live in the US, because if you do, then you have not been paying attention for at least the last 30 years. The politicians have turned the penal system into something almost entirely punative because of the "tough on crime" meme. Rehabilitation is practically non-existant.

        • by jamstar7 (694492)

          It sounds like you believe the sole purpose of prison is revenge against the offender. I don't want to live in a society where that's the purpose of justice.

          I hope you don't live in the US, because if you do, then you have not been paying attention for at least the last 30 years. The politicians have turned the penal system into something almost entirely punative because of the "tough on crime" meme. Rehabilitation is practically non-existant.

          Rehabilitation is non-existant. Most convicts in the state of Ar

          • by rmstar (114746)

            What also has to be said is that conservatives are A-OK with this kind of stuff. Evil people that they are.

  • Too Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GeneralTurgidson (2464452) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @02:40PM (#40470341)
    I'm of the mindset that even a little alcohol in your system should keep you off the road. Alcohol affects people in different ways, what may be fine for you isn't fine for me. If you wan to have a drink, don't plan on driving.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheCarp (96830)

      So what you are saying is...this is some sort of religious conviction of yours? Because, I am of the opinion that the limits have been set so ridiculously low in some places that the law is a joke....a bad joke.

      But hey, who cares that some studies even showed a person to be more safe after one drink. This isn't about safety, its about the perception of safety.

      • Re:Too Bad (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @03:13PM (#40470737)

        http://www.fatiguescience.com/assets/pdf/Alcohol-Fatigue.pdf

        Such as figure 1B, which shows, on average, how mean relative performance always decreases with any alcohol (albeit trivially up to about 0.04)

        or http://addictions.uchicago.edu/carl/DandAlcDependence%20Brumback.pdf

        That shows only with low doses of alcohol (under about 0.042 BAC) can you not really notice a drop in performance, and after that everyone, heavy drinkers or not perform worse in cognitive tasks and that the heavy and non heavy drinking groups mirror each other in performance.

        I'd give more links but if you aren't on a university campus or somewhere else that they're free it's sort of futile, and I don't really want to keep mashing links until I find ones that work without academic library access (and where I am has a med school so we're subscribed to medical journals, places without a med school might not).

        But hey, why not make up some facts that 'some studies' support your argument so you can create a perception of authority without providing those studies and when the most easily findable studies (when searching for terms like cognitive impairment and blood alcohol level, and other obvious search terms produce results that disagree with you?).

        Now your first line, you hit the nail on the head, before you joined the nutter bin. It's clear that BAC less than about 0.04 has so little impairment (even though it is there) you need very large sample sizes for that effect to not get lost in noise. That applies to heavy and mild drinkers equally. So if where you live has a BAC requirement of less than 0.04 they're probably playing theatre or moral/religious grounds than evidence based policy. Anyone who's at about 0.05 or worse is making a judgment call on just how much measurable impairment is tolerable, which is all science can do. Politicians have to decide risk tolerance and cost benefit analysis, science merely quantifies the effect that creates risk, and sometimes the risk itself.

        • Re:Too Bad (Score:5, Insightful)

          by HornWumpus (783565) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @04:08PM (#40471465)

          Applying the same standard, nobody gets to drive after 40 or before 25 years old. Measurable impairment and poor judgement and all.

          Looking at the stats for actual drunk driving accidents it's apparent that .15 is where driving goes to shit. Even .10 was conservative. .08 is just about revenue.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dkleinsc (563838)

        This isn't about safety, its about the perception of safety.

        This is about safety.

        Drunk driving kills approximately 40 times as many people as terrorism, about 8000 drunk drivers and 4000 people that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, making it one of the top causes of death by trauma (the other contenders for this dubious honor being other car accidents, poisoning, suicide, falls, and homicide). It's a serious problem, and is a reasonable area for government to try to do something about it.

        I'm not against getting drunk. I'm against drunk peopl

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cayenne8 (626475)

      If you wan to have a drink, don't plan on driving.

      Gotta get the car home so I can get to work tomorrow.

      If they didn't want people to drink and drive home, then they'd NOT have all those nice large parking lots outside of the bars.

      Drive past one that's open....see the cars in the lot. Drive past after closing time...see how many cars have left.

      Do you even slightly think that even a minority of those people drove home below the 'limit', or had a designated driver? Please...don't kid yourself.

      It is behav

      • Re:Too Bad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mark-t (151149) <`markt' `at' `lynx.bc.ca'> on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @04:06PM (#40471441) Journal

        If they didn't want people to drink and drive home, then they'd NOT have all those nice large parking lots outside of the bars.

        Presumably, you are with somebody who *CAN* drive you home... and the next time you are there, it'll be your turn to drive.

        The excuse that they have parking lots in bars should be an excuse to drive home after drinking is about as lame as "she was dressed like a prostitute" is an excuse to commit rape. And before anybody brings it up, I'm not comparing the severity of the two actions (drinking and driving to rape)... only the feebleness of the excuse, and all it shows is an immature reluctance to assume responsibility and accountability for one's own choices.

    • Re:Too Bad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @02:59PM (#40470603)

      Alcohol affects people in different ways, what may be fine for you isn't fine for me.

      Yes... and the solution is not your proposal of any alcohol means no driving. The solution is being responsible for your damn self and knowing how the shit affects you. If you can't drive after even one drink, then fucking don't. If I can without any issues of safety or decreased driving ability (especially when had with a big meal that the alcohol hasn't even had time to absorb into my system fast enough, because it hasn't been sucked out of the food that it was absorbed into yet), then let me drive and get the fuck off my lawn. And if some fuck abuses that responsibility and kills someone, then said person needs to take responsibility and take the consequences or find a new life where he can forget that it ever happened.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        While in theory, this is good... in practice, very few people actually realize just how much their performance actually is really affected by alcohol unless they have actually been personally involved in an experiment which has its own controls and objective measurements.
    • by Tanktalus (794810)

      I completely agree. Any alcohol in my system, whatsoever, and I don't drive. I take a look at when I plan to depart, and have no more than one drink per hour that I plan on being there. Further, no alcohol for the last hour. Simple rules. By the time I get to the car, I'm as stone-cold sober as when I arrived. (For some people, this is still too much, depends on body mass, etc.).

      However, translating my own rules on that to the law? No. If you're talking about a "zero-tolerance" law for drivers who a

  • Want to know why drunk driving is so endemic in the United States?

    Here's a hint:

    most bars in the US are in towns and suburbs where they are not served by public transit, AND, the are required to have parking spots for all their customers.

    If ever there was a business that should be forbidden to have customer parking, it's a bar.

    Of all the things about liquor laws in the US, this is the most insane.

    • I see nothing wrong with having a pint and driving home. Even several pints, if I'm there for several hours.

      Caveat--I'm a 6' 200lb male. My 95lb female friend may require different standards.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Want to know why drunk driving is so endemic in the United States? most bars in the US are in towns and suburbs where they are not served by public transit, AND, the are required to have parking spots for all their customers.

      Then explain Springfield, IL. You can't throw a beer bottle in this town without hitting a bar with it; there are at least five within staggering distance from my house. Yet folks here still get plastered and drive.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @02:49PM (#40470485)

    Who knew they still made software for buggies?

  • its not that hard.
    drink at home.
    get a designated driver
    take a cab home or the bus or he train

    if you're drunk and in your car and get caught i have no sympathy for you.

    • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @02:56PM (#40470569)

      What if you're well under the legal limit and perfectly capable of driving safely but some machine says you're extremely drunk?

      • by alen (225700)

        since you're going to be on police cruiser candid camera i'm sure you won't have any trouble passing the field tests

        • What, like the test where the cop waves the pen in front of your face and says "yeah he's drunk, because I said so." Or the one where you blow into the machine and it comes back saying that your body is 5% alcohol, and the judge doesn't see a problem there?

          In other words, you're saying that it's OK to have buggy testing equipment, because field tests?

          • by cs668 (89484) <cservin@cromagnon.com> on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @05:31PM (#40472343)

            Many years ago I was at a bar in NJ listening to a band. I had 1 beer over the whole 4 hours I was there. I was younger and dancing my ass off so no time to drink. I was pulled over on the way back to my apartment. When they noticed my MN drivers license they asked me to take a breathalyzer, I did. When I passed it, they had another squad car there and asked me to take another one. This happened one more time before I refused. I had been breathalyzed 3 times and was still afraid that if I refused they would rough me up for not following orders. But, I finally said no because it was obvious that they were just hoping for a misreading. Then they all stood in a circle and talked and let me go. I was about 22 at the time and it has definitely helped to make me distrust police.

    • if you're drunk and in your car and get caught i have no sympathy for you.

      It's attitudes like this that cause people to drive drunk.

      If someone's drunk and wants to do the responsible thing (i.e. sleep it off and not drive until sober), there is no incentive to do that because the penalty for waiting until sober is the same as the penalty for driving drunk. So might as well drive drunk and roll the dice.

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        the penalty for waiting until sober is the same as the penalty for driving drunk

        Which penalty are we talking about, the one where you pay a fine or the one where you end up killed or maimed?

      • by residieu (577863)
        Well, sleeping in your car drunk is less likely to get you or someone else killed. So that's an incentive.
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Sure, I'd love to take a cab and pay almost $50 for the privilege...

  • On what planet? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @02:52PM (#40470531)

    How did we come to a place where a judge can simply decide a machine, which has been proven unreliable, is in fact reliable? How will these people sleep at night knowing they are punishing people who were innocent? Is our whole society run by sociopaths now?

    • Re:On what planet? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alen (225700) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @02:59PM (#40470605)

      no, it was proved the software has bugs. all software has bugs. all software has always had bugs. airplane software has bugs. my honda CR-V was just patched for a transmission software bug. i was still able to drive it safely and airplanes don't fall out of the sky daily because of software bugs.

      it was up to the defense to prove that the bugs in question return invalid results or increase the margin of error so much as to make the results useless

      too bad, all the idiots who choose to drive after drinking more than they should deserve to go to jail. i'll drive a few hours after i have one drink. maybe one and a half. these idiots got drunk and drove a car

      • Re:On what planet? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @03:15PM (#40470775)

        According to the article, cellphones in close proximity to the device can effect the accuracy of its results. Based on this ruling, defendants charged based on results from this equipment will not be able to challange the reliability of the results due to the proximity of a cell-phone, even though it is known to be an issue! How can you honestly not have a problem with that? Are you so blinded by your hatred of drunk drivers that you don't even believe people accused of it should have a right to a fair trial?

        • by Imagix (695350)
          I can easily have a problem with that. The article doesn't say how much the cell phone affects the results. If it results in a 0.0001 swing (just picking a number out of thin air) in the reported BAC, then only those people who where 0.0001 + the existing margin of error away from the legal limit should be able to contest their judgement. But the people who were further away from effectively the new margin of error have no basis to contest the results.
    • 'Complacency mixed with the Culture of Fear,'

      'like fuckin' babies,'

      and

      'yes, has been for quite some time.'
    • by captjc (453680)

      How will these people sleep at night knowing they are punishing people who were innocent?

      On top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies?

  • When some potlicker tried to follow me up my driveway, at 2 AM, because "it was too dark to see my tail lights" he was tested at the scene and then tested again "downtown" Registering 0.17

    Apprehending officers can also, and often do, use some video and audio at the scene. This guy, rocking back and forth on his feet, because he can hardly keep his balance, was convinced it was all the other driver's fault. Put that on video for the judge to see.

  • ...a ruling done to prevent a crap-storm of appeals and further contested DUI charges. I've seen such things happen before, where the ruling has less to do with evidence, and more to do with all the trouble that ruling on such evidence would cause. How much of a headache for law enforcement will it be if their DUI test proves flawed? It's a good thing to consider, even if it probably shouldn't affect the ruling...kind-of a "catch-.22."

  • Let's suppose that, for the sake of argument, we know that someone exactly six foot created a crime.

    You have six subjects. You get a measuring tape. One person measures exactly six foot.

    He's convicted. We find out 2 years later that the measuring stick was two inches off.

    According to this the person couldn't appeal based on the fact that the measuring stick was incorrect.

    Both are tools. The only difference is one is an electronic, software based tool. Of course, this would mean that the judge didn't th

    • A somewhat flawed analogy because the tool is "usually right". It'd be like a measuring tape that, once in a while, stretches or shrinks by a few inches and there's no way to prove, two years later, exactly what height that person was at the time of the crime (maybe he's young and still growing?). Nonetheless, your point of it being a tool that may not always give 100% correct measurements is completely valid.

  • Is this an elected or appointed judge?

    He ruled on the case as if he was elected.

  • Now what does a six-year hold on a DUI case do?

    How many cases will just be dropped to clear the load?

    The Administrative License Suspension/Revocation maxes out at 1y for the 3rd time.

  • attorneys say to request a blood or urine test and not a Breathalyzer test.

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Breathalyzer-Test-For-DUI---Is-it-Your-Best-Bet?&id=3701454 [ezinearticles.com]

  • by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @04:31PM (#40471741)

    Once the cop decides he's going to arrest you for a DUI, its pretty irrelevant what data he does or doesn't collect or how its collected. Unless you're up for spending six to eight months of your life and about $15,000+ to put on a jury trial (and who knows what a jury is going to do), you're pretty much guilty on the spot. Its all well constructed legislation that was passed literally without opposition, as no politician is interested in sticking up for drunk drivers.

    Further, in many states (like California) you're charged criminally AND as a separate administrative process by the department of motor vehicles. The DMV portion in CA simply requires that there be sufficient evidence of guilt and is independent of whatever happens in court on the criminal aspect. The DMV considers a police report with the arresting officers opinion that you were incapable of driving as sufficient evidence, without a need for a breathalyzer result. Further, some people are convicted of a dui with a blood alcohol level below .08, again because the arresting officer felt based on his observations that the driver was drunk.

    The "cake" in this situation is the truth about the dividing line between social drinking and drunk driving. I think most people would agree that having a drink or two after work or with dinner is social drinking and should be legal if one should decide to drive home. However many people would be legally drunk on two drinks the size and composition of what many bars and restaurants pour.

    Throw in the pressure to make DUI arrests, the ridiculous amount of fines and fees that fill wallets, the lack of any sort of sympathy or lobby effort to make things fair and reasonable, and then leave the 'social or drunk' decision to the cop...

    So its advisable to stop worrying about the cockamamie systems they use to 'prove' whether you were too drunk to drive, those don't really matter much. Understand that there is no such thing as 'social drinking and driving', that by speeding a little or failing to stop completely at a stop sign can easily lead to a DUI arrest even if you haven't had that much to drink, and that arrest will be fairly devastating in terms of financial and personal impacts.

  • by fruity_pebbles (568822) on Wednesday June 27, 2012 @04:34PM (#40471775)
    I was #8 in the jury pool for a DUI case. They were empaneling 12 jurors so I was going to be on the jury unless the prosecution or the defense chose to strike me. During voire dire the prosecutor asked a general question along the lines of "how do you feel about DUI cases?" I raised my hand, explained that I was a computer programmer, and said that I was skeptical of the reliability of breathalyzers because of articles I had read in trade journals concerning buggy breathalyzer software. I was not picked to be on the jury.

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