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  • Stephen Biss

Reliability: Example 5000EN in 2014


The evidentiary breath instrument depicted in these videos is an Intoxilyzer® 5000EN. It was manufactured about 2001. It post-dates the 5000C but pre-dates the 8000C. It is a very sophisticated instrument that has 5 IR filters as compared with the 3 IR filters in the 5000C and 2 IR filters in the 8000C. It has wonderful specificity control. I purchased it "used" several years ago. At first it ran very well, no problems. It has not been serviced, maintained, or inspected by the manufacturer or the service centre since my puchase. The 5000EN is an instrument that was evaluated by the Alcohol Test Committee in Canada but was never "approved" by the Minister of Justice. When mine is working, it appears to work very well: good stand-alone diagnostics checks, good stand-alone cal. checks (although it seems to prefer a Guth 10-4D simulator to a 34C), and consistently normal subject tests. However, the normalcy of ordinary use, i.e. when it has been started and re-started and running for awhile, hides its dark side.

Unfortunately over the last year or so the internal standards appear to be drifting. Internal standards on a 5000, 5000C, or 5000EN are similar to the internal test procedure (ITPs) on the 8000C. Internal standards or ITPs are electronic cal. checks. On the 5000EN or the 8000/8000C they can be used in addition to wet-bath cal. checks or as an alternative to wet-bath cal. checks. However, if internal standards or ITPs are not re-calibrated (adjusted) against an external standard they become unusable as the instrument ages. They also lose their probative value.

The strange thing is that as they drift, they start to fail during start-up diagnostics but the failure does not necessarily show up once the instrument is running a long time and a stand-alone diagnostics is generated or subject tests are generated. An operator can "fix" the problem by starting and re-starting many times.

Assuming that internal standards on the 5000C and ITPs on the 8000C are important (note "ITP Passed" on an 8000C test card read together with Criminal Code section 258(1)(f.1)), does it make sense that police should be required to get these internal standards or ITPs re-calibrated by an independent authorized service centre at least once a year? Just because they are electronic, why shouldn't they be re-calibrated properly against known standards to match manufacturer's specifications? They are a type of calibration check that appear to have some probative value. Therefore a "pass" or "fail" indication should have some meaning.

Here's an example of an instrument with drifting internal standards. Please judge for yourself. Is this instrument "reliable"? These videos were made in 2014.

WARNING: What you read and see in these blog posts IS NOT EVIDENCE. The author is NOT an expert. No attempt should be made to use these videos or the comments herein in Court. The purpose of these videos and comments is discussion and training among lawyers only.

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