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Breathalyzer tests allowed again

A breathalyzer or other test can play a major role in prosecuting a driver in Massachusetts for an operating under the influence charge. An OUI defense helps protect rights by assuring that this testing is accurate. Recently, however, Massachusetts will again use breathalyzer test evidence that was rejected in OUI cases.

Litigation previously uncovered improper procedures used by the state's office of alcohol testing. In Feb. 2017, a district court judge ruled that office operated without reliable standards used for maintaining breath test machines which jeopardized their use in court cases. As a result, breath test results could not be used as evidence in OUI prosecutions. The judge later discovered that the OAT did not disclose important evidence in that case.

Prosecutors ultimately threw out evidence in thousands of drunk driving cases. They agreed not to use breathalyzer test results as evidence except for the most serious cases. Reforms include seeking accreditation from a national board.

The ANSI National Accreditation Board notified the state on June 14 that the crime laboratory received accreditation in forensic accreditation by the ANAB. The ANAB is the organization that operates the national accreditation board. According to Secretary of Public Safety, Massachusetts is one of the few states that have calibration laboratories that are accredited by the ANAB.

The state's laboratory will be monitored by the ANSI to assure that it is complying with national standards. OAT staff also underwent training earlier this year on the legal requirement of furnishing discovery materials to prosecutors and defense attorneys.

A state spokesperson said that breath tests may be introduced as evidence in prosecutions within days or weeks. But the district judge which invalidated this evidence must issue a ruling before law enforcement can use these tests again.

The validity of breathalyzer and other tests and whether there was probable cause to stop a motorist may be important parts of an OUI prosecution. An attorney can challenge evidence that does not comply with legal and constitutional standards.

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