Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The new and improved Intoxiliar

While stumbling around the internet I happened upon the website for CMI, the manufacturer of the Intoxilyzer. Always being on the lookout for material to use to impeach the little black box, and loving the irony of using someone's words against them, I downloaded brochures touting both the Intoxilyzer 5000EN and the (new) Intoxilyzer 8000. I was not disappointed.

The promotional materials for the Intoxilyzer 5000EN contained these gems:
  • Breath sampling: Instrument automatically senses end expiratory air (alveolar) using the technique of slope detection in conjunction with a minimum volume and minimum time requirement.
  • Calibration: The instrument is factory-calibrated and does not require periodic calibration adjustments as do fuel cell-equipped instruments.
  • Breath Volume Measurement: A flow sensor allows breath volume information to be calculated and printed during each test.
  • Simulator Temperature Monitor: This allows the instrument, through software and hardware, to monitor the simulator solution temperature.
  • Warranty: One year, parts and labor. Two- and three-year are optional.
Now I have a few questions remaining:

If the breath test machine's slope detector is such a wonderful device, why is an observation period still recommended prior to the actual breath test?

If the breath test machine does not require periodic calibration, what do the technical supervisors do when they check the machine? And why do maintenance records reveal the replacement and cleaning of internal parts?

If the breath test machine can measure and print out breath volume on a test slip, why don't the test slips in Texas contain that information?

If the breath test machine can monitor the temperature of the alcohol jar, why isn't that information printed out on the test slip?

According to the spec sheet, the sample chamber is 11.4" long (28.9 cm) with a volume of 81.4 cc (that's about 2.75 oz).  Instead of measuring the alcohol concentration in 210 liters of breath, as per the Texas DWI Statute, the breath test machine only measures the concentration in the last 81.4 cc of breath. 

But the best was yet to come for, like the promo materials for any other products on the market, the manufacturer always wants to point out that the latest model is new and improved. CMI is no 
different when it comes to pumping up the Intoxilyzer 8000.

According to CMI:
The tradition of case law-approved infrared spectrometry alcohol analysis is taken to a new level by the Intoxilyzer 8000. The Intoxilyzer 8000 combines both 3 and 9 [micron] measurements to deliver unparalleled accuracy and reliability.
The brochure also states that the Intoxilyzer 8000 is "emerging as the industry standard for evidential DUI enforcement."

What do these statements mean as far as the accuracy and reliability of the Intoxilyzer 5000? More importantly, what do they mean in regards to the accuracy and reliability of the breath tests being used against our fellow Texans?

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