Published on:

Judge Deems Questionable Breathalyzer Results Are Inadmissible, Resulting in the Dismissal of Thousands of Massachusetts DUI Cases

Many Massachusetts DUI cases are based on breathalyzer test results. These tests, often given on the side of the road by police officers, have come under intense scrutiny across the country for being less than accurate.

Over the past several years, Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys have been litigating the admissibility of breathalyzer test results. While the arguments to exclude the test results are quite technical and complex, the results were attacked both in how they were obtained as well as how they were stored. Recently, a Massachusetts District Judge issued a landmark opinion excluding breathalyzer results in thousands of Massachusetts DUI cases.

According to a recent news report covering the judge’s decision, the issue began back in 2017 when he ruled that the testing results were reliable, but that the manner in which they were maintained was not reliable. In his 2017 ruling, the judge determined that the results could not be presumed to be reliable, requiring the prosecution present additional evidence to establish test results were reliable. The judge also ordered the Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT) to provide thousands of pages of data to defense attorneys.

In August of last year, it was discovered that the OAT had withheld 432 pages of data showing instances where the breathalyzer machines were not properly calibrated. Since this discovery, the leader of the office has been fired. An independent government investigation was conducted after the discovery, finding “various instances of intentional withholding of exculpatory evidence, blatant disregard of court orders, and other errors, all underscored by a longstanding and insular institutional culture that was reflexively guarded.”

The judge overseeing the case issued an order preventing OAT from admitting any breath test results into evidence. While the original date-range of test results that were suspect was limited to 2012 to 2014, the judge’s order applies to all breathalyzer results. Prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that any test results obtained after August 2017, when OAT released the initially withheld documents, should be not be precluded. Instead, the judge held that all results will be precluded until OAT submits an application the national accreditation board that is likely to be approved.

Interestingly, prosecutors have reached an agreement in which they will use breathalyzer evidence in certain cases, including Operating Under the Influence (OUI) resulting in a homicide, OUI causing serious bodily injury, and 5th and subsequent OUI offenses.

Have You Been Arrested for a Massachusetts?

If you have recently been arrested for a Massachusetts DUI case, you should consult with a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy is a dedicated Boston criminal defense attorney with decades of experience handling all types of OUI and DUI cases. To learn more about how Attorney Murphy can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Court Finds Officers’ Search of Home Cannot Be Justified by Officer-Created Exigency, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 11, 2019

Is Secretly Recording Police Officers Allowed in Massachusetts?, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 29, 2018