I've often jokingly thought to myself that if I was ever pulled over by
a member of the Californian constabulary using a speed detection radar
gun, that I would demand to see the source code in court. I'm neither a
lawyer nor a physicist, but my intuition tells me that machines used
for measuring anything need to be calibrated correctly and frequently.
In addition, they are driven by software. Hypothetically speaking,
since I would never break the speed limit, just because a machine tells
someone I'm speeding, that doesn't make it so. Software never makes
On a similar note, the Minnesota Supreme Court recently ruled
that the makers of the Intoxilyzer 5000EN Breathalyzer turn over the
source code by August 17 to defense attorneys for use in a DUI case.
Since this is not likely to happen, the guy will most likely walk free.
Interestingly, it seems that the Intoxilyzer is based on the old Z-80
microprocessor from 1976. The software that runs the breathalyzer is
24K worth of sophistication. This would be funny if it wasn't so
serious. Peek me, poke me, but don't send me to prison on the word of
an antique games chip as an expert witness.
The gap between technology and some form of sensible, enforceable legislation continues to widen.
And it's not just speed guns and breathalyzers. Recently, a spate of traffic light cameras have
appeared in my local twin-city area. Some say that they solved local budget woes overnight with the
almost $400 fine for busting a light. If you go before the court, they present nice shiny B+W
pictures of your face and your license plate. "Yes, that's me and
that's my car. But where's the picture of the traffic light your honor? It was as green as
the fields of Ireland when I drove though it..."
Speaking of tickets, we have the speed monitored here by aircraft. If you end up in court
as the result of a radio call from the pilot to the police officer, make sure the pilot is present
in court along with the police officer when you cross-examine the witnesses ;-)