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  • Stephen Biss

Reliability: Aging - Losing Memory


The Intoxilyzer® 8000 depicted in this video was once a reliable evidentiary breath testing instrument in the United States. It is similar to the Intoxilyzer® 8000Cs used by police in Ontario. Intoxilyzer® 8000Cs with Ontario hardware and software cannot be purchased by defence lawyers, experts in private practice, or members of the public. The features, flaws, and effects of aging on Ontario's 8000Cs are therefore difficult to study. Crown scientists working for the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto and Sudbury can study them. Police can study them. Anyone associated with the defence cannot study them, because we have no access to instruments with Ontario hardware and software.

The 8000 depicted in this video has not been properly maintained. No one has performed basic maintenance or inspected its systems against manufacturer's specifications for at least several years. It has an unknown history of maintenance and no recent maintenance.

Unfortunately, there is something wrong with its "Real Time Clock". The instrument does not keep time very well. Sometimes it skips a second. It loses time when it is turned off. The clock needs to be reset on every use. Countdowns sometimes jump two seconds. The instrument has problems with memory and its sense of time.

Yet this instrument, once the technician tweaks the clock, appears to function normally. It gets from point A to point B producing test record printouts of two normal subject tests, a stand-alone diagnostics test, and a stand-alone cal. check. At time of use everything appears normal. It is only by knowing the full context (and this video is edited/abbreviated) that one can see the lack of reliability.

If you only saw the test record cards indicating two normal subject tests, a normal diagnostics passed result, and a normal stand-alone cal. check, how would you ever know that the clock on this instrument has become unreliable? If you do not have full maintenance and inspection records how would you know that this instrument has not been properly maintained?

The clock on an 8000 or 8000C is very important to record keeping of the configuration of the alcohol standard, statutory time limits, and suitable sample determination. These aging instruments need to be FULLY inspected and maintained on a regular basis by qualified service technicians to ensure that they continue to meet manufacturer's specifications.

Transparency of documentation of such inspections and maintenance is essential to the constitutionality of the Parliamentary scheme - see R. v. Ste-Onge Lamoureux in the SCC.

#reliability #aging

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