To determine whether a driver has been drinking alcohol, Massachusetts police officers often use breathalyzer tests. These tests measure the amount of alcohol in your breath to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC).
If the test finds that your BAC is above the legal limit (0.08 percent), you may get arrested for operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI).
Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling regarding faulty breathalyzer tests. Here’s what you should know about it.
The History Of Faulty Breathalyzer Tests In Massachusetts
In 2013, Springfield criminal defense attorney Joe Bernard drew attention to problems with breathalyzer testing completed by the Massachusetts Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT). Over the years, other legal professionals echoed Bernard’s concerns.
By 2021, these concerns had led most of the state’s district attorneys to stop using breathalyzer evidence. They instead relied on evidence from field sobriety tests and testimony from police or other witnesses.
The issues involved tests performed via a device called the Draeger Alcotest 9510. Investigators eventually found that this device gave inaccurate breath test results because it had not been routinely calibrated (tested for accuracy).
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What To Know About The Breathalyzer Test Court Ruling
On April 26th, 2023, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that all breathalyzer test results from the Draeger Alcotest 9510 collected between June 1, 2011 and April 18, 2019 should be excluded from criminal prosecutions.
That means that 27,000 Massachusetts residents who pleaded guilty or were convicted of drunk driving charges based on breathalyzer evidence have a chance to prove their innocence.
They may either withdraw their guilty pleas or request new trials. In addition, their breathalyzer results can’t be used as evidence in any future trials.
The Case Of Lindsay Hallinan
The ruling, written by Justice Frank Gaziano, discussed the case of Lindsay Hallinan. In 2013, Hallinan pleaded to sufficient facts involving a drunk driving case. That means she admitted that if her case went to trial, the prosecution’s evidence would cause a jury or judge to find her guilty.
However, investigators later found that Hallinan’s case involved a Draeger Alcotest 9510 machine that had not been routinely tested for accuracy. This finding sparked further investigation, which found that the OAT had covered up the severity of the machine’s issues.
Wrongly Convicted OUIs
The ruling will help bring justice to Massachusetts residents wrongly convicted of OUIs. These convictions can have serious consequences.
First-time offenders may face driver’s license suspension, a fine of $500 to $5,000, and a prison sentence of up to two and a half years. Repeat offenders face even harsher penalties, including up to $50,000 in fines, up to five years in prison, and lifetime driver’s license revocation.
Improvements To Breathalyzer Tests
According to an OAT spokesperson, the office has made significant improvements over the past few years to ensure that all breathalyzer tests produce accurate results.
These improvements involve breathalyzer certification, case management, discovery processes, and employee training.
How To Seek Justice
If a breathalyzer test result from a Draeger Alcotest 9510 contributed to your OUI conviction, you will receive a notice from the court. You should contact the defense lawyer you previously hired for your OUI case.
If you can’t afford a lawyer, the court can assign one to you at no charge. To request a free lawyer, complete this online form or leave your information at the confidential intake line at (617) 910-5856.
Because so many people will be requesting lawyers, it may take days or weeks for you to receive a response.
Drunk Driving & Alcohol Abuse
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37 people in the United States die in drunk driving crashes every day. Many of these crashes involve alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction).
This disease makes you feel unable to stop drinking alcohol, even when you’re driving. Other symptoms may include:
- strong cravings for alcohol
- tolerance (needing increasingly larger or more frequent drinks to feel the desired effects)
- physical dependence (experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and sweating, when you don’t drink alcohol)
- loss of motivation
- loss of interest in activities that don’t involve alcohol
Like other diseases, alcohol addiction requires treatment.
Find Addiction Treatment In Massachusetts
To learn about treatment options, please reach out to Bedrock Recovery Center. Our compassionate treatment providers offer medical detox, behavioral therapy, and other evidence-based services to help you or your loved one stay healthy.
- CBS News Boston https://www.cbsnews.com/boston/news/breathalyzer-ruling-massachusetts-oui-cases-drunk-driving/
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts https://www.mass.gov/info-details/breathalyzer-cases-information
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-law-about-drunk-or-drugged-driving
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving