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Massachusetts breathalyzer tests currently inadmissible

In January 2019, a District Court judge ruled that breathalyzer tests for people charged with OUI in the state of Massachusetts are, for the time being, inadmissible in court.

Litigation has continued for years over this issue. A lack of reliable standards is at the core of the ongoing legal dust-up.

A little history

Breathalyzer standards became an issue in 2017 when District Court Judge Robert Brennan determined that unreliable standards existed in The Office of Alcohol Testing, or OAT. The main concern was the calibration of breathalyzer tests made between June 2012 and September 2014; the test results were, therefore, called into question.

Not full disclosure

After requiring OAT to provide the court with all the certification and calibration worksheets relative to the breathalyzer test, the judge found that OAT had not made full disclosure. State officials had turned over 1,976 worksheets but withheld another 432 worksheets related directly to failed calibrations. In 2018, the Massachusetts district attorneys agreed to throw out evidence from thousands of drunk driving cases.

Making changes

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security undertook an internal investigation of OAT. Among other conclusions, the investigators found a “blatant disregard of court orders and other errors.” The blame fell on “a longstanding and insular institutional culture,” and the entity was ordered to make operational changes. OAT is establishing new standards, providing additional training for its workers and intends to apply for accreditation by August 2019. Until OAT proves it can provide scientifically accurate results, no test results will be admissible in court.

Investigating an OUI charge

There are other tests besides breathalyzer tests for drivers charged with operating under the influence, but any of these may contain flaws. Anyone arrested for OUI in Massachusetts should immediately explore his or her legal options. There may be procedural errors or faulty test results that could provide crucial information and affect a case outcome.

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