Minnesota DWI Testing Still Questionable in Wake of Source Code Issues

Most drunk driving cases are built almost completely around the results of chemical alcohol testing. But what happens when the science behind the testing is flawed?

For years, the machine primarily used to detect breath alcohol content in Minnesota was the Intoxilyzer 5000. However, numerous errors became evident in the Intoxilyzer 5000’s source code (the internal computer code upon which the device is completely reliant). Now, law enforcement authorities are moving away from the Intoxilyzer 5000 — but many DWI cases have nonetheless been left in limbo, and alternative alcohol testing methods, such as urine testing for DWIs, have also failed to withstand scientific scrutiny.

Source Code Questions Lead to Urine Testing Deficiencies

Source code or software issues have plagued the Intoxilyzer 5000 for years; Minnesota DWI defense attorneys challenged the use of the Intoxilyzer 5000, arguing it did not always provide accurate breath alcohol content results. For business reasons, the manufacturer of the Intoxilyzer 5000, CMI, would not release the source code for analysis, adding to the confusion. After years of legal wrangling, a Minnesota judge finally ruled that despite the alleged source code problems, the Intoxilyzer 5000 expressed an accurate numerical representation of alcohol content as derived from breath testing. That ruling has now been appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which may issue its source code appeal ruling at any time.
Yet, despite the judicial ruling upholding the general accuracy of the Intoxilyzer 5000, the damage has been done. Thousands of DWI cases were left in limbo, and police tacitly acknowledged problems with the Intoxilyzer 5000 by switching to alternative means of alcohol testing.

Breath tests are still used to test alcohol levels, but law enforcement officers now typically rely on testing devices, such as the Datamaster, from a new manufacturer when conducting breath tests. Additionally, urine testing has become more popular following the source code debacle — but urine testing for DWI is not accurate in Minnesota.
As your body processes alcohol, it is deposited in your bladder to be discharged as waste in your urine. The alcohol sits in the bladder undisturbed until it is released, even as the alcohol concentration in your blood drops. If you have been drinking and have not urinated in some time, alcohol pools in the bladder and the first urine sample you provide will make you blood alcohol content appear far higher than it is in reality. This “first void” sample is often used by law enforcement authorities in Minnesota who ask you to provide a urine sample as soon as you are arrested. The test results that follow may put your alcohol content over the legal limit when at present you are, in fact, far from impaired.

Fight Your Minnesota DWI Charge

Don’t let faulty DWI chemical test results land you in a world of legal trouble. If you’ve been pulled over for drunk driving, contact a Minnesota DWI defense attorney today and get the help you need in challenging ineffectual test results

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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