There's a kerfuffle brewing in the Sunshine State over who owns the rights to the software that powers certain alcohol breath-test machines. The outcome may mean the difference between a valid or false DUI charge on your permanent driving record.
The machine in question, the Intoxilyzer 8000, contains proprietary software code that defense attorneys claim is owned by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Kentucky-based CMI, Inc., manufacturer of the machines, says the source code is a non-transferable trade secret and the FDLE's license covers only the Intoxilyzer 8000's hardware, not the software it contains.
A judge has been asked to review the case and if it's determined the FDLE does now own the code, that opens the door to all sorts of ways for defense attorneys to get their clients off the DUI hook.
As the Sarasota Herald-Tribune points out, "Police across Florida use the Intoxilyzer 8000 machines to determine the blood-alcohol content of suspected drunk drivers, so defense attorneys constantly try to attack the machine's credibility."
Frankly, these types of lawsuits worry me. Thanks to rapidly emerging technology, law enforcement officials are finding new ways to put bad guys behind bars. While I'm all for avoiding false-positive results that make or break a defendant's case, exposing the code base in proprietary software isn't the answer.
I'd suggest stringent performance standards testing, along the lines of what the government uses to determine the quality of applications concerning matters of national security. Of course no technology is fail-safe, but holding up the prosecution of people who break the law in order to look for loopholes in the very technology that put them behind bars in the first place isn't the answer.