Massachusetts Supreme Court Expands Relief from Egregious Misconduct by The Office of Alcohol Testing

In the past decade, the criminal justice system in the state of Massachusetts has become infamous for egregiously dishonest conduct by state crime labs and prosecutors, resulting in thousands of criminal convictions being overturned. While the most well-known cases of this conduct relate to drug testing procedures by the state crime lab and two technicians who falsified testing results, there are other cases in which the law enforcement apparatus has been condemned by the courts for illegal conduct. One such case involves the state Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT), and their failure to honestly and faithfully supply both prosecutors and defense attorneys with exculpatory evidence to which they were entitled. A woman who was convicted of an OUI (operating under the influence) offense in 2013 recently challenged her conviction based on information that has come to light regarding the conduct of the OAT.

The defendant from the recently-decided appeal is a woman who was convicted of an OUI offense after being stopped at a DUI checkpoint in 2013. After being questioned, the woman submitted to a breathalyzer test which showed that she had a blood alcohol level in excess of the legal limit. As a result of the breathalyzer results, the defendant was arrested and charged with OUI. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the woman was advised by her attorney at the time that the case against her was strong, and she took the attorney’s advice and entered a guilty plea to the crime as charged.

After she was convicted of the OUI offense,. It came to light that the OAT had been purposefully withholding test records for the particular breathalyzer machine (Alcotest 9510) used by the police in order to prevent defense attorneys from challenging the admission of the breath test evidence at trial. In a series of cases decided since 2015, Massachusetts courts have reversed thousands of convictions based on breathalyzer evidence supplied by the OAT during that time frame. The defendant was not permitted to withdraw her plea because she pleaded guilty before trial occurred. She then appealed her claim to the highest court in the state, arguing that she would never have pleaded guilty in the first place had she known that the OAT was violating disclosure rules and the test results may not have been admissible at her trial.

On appeal, the high court agreed with the defendant, finding that her guilty plea was made upon the advice of her attorney, who could not have known at the time that the OAT was acting dishonestly and refusing to turn over the exculpatory evidence. With this ruling, the court has opened the door for any defendants convicted of an OUI offense based on results from an Alcotest 9510 breathalyzer machine between June 1, 2011, and April 18, 2019 to withdraw their plea and seek a new trial. There are likely thousands of defendants who may be eligible for this type of relief.

Have You Been Charged or Convicted of an OUI Offense?

If you were convicted of a Boston OUI offense in Massachusetts between June 1, 2011, and April 18, 2019, you may be entitled to have your conviction overturned based on the Supreme Judicial Court’s rulings concerning the egregious conduct of the OAT during that time frame. The Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy may be able to help you clear your name. Our experienced defense lawyers understand that prosecutors and state crime officials aren’t afraid to use dishonest and even illegal tactics to get a conviction, and we can help you stand up for yourself and fight your prosecution. If you have been charged with an OUI offense more recently, our attorneys can help you challenge the charges against you by ensuring that the prosecution and law enforcement agencies involved are required to follow their own rules. Contact our office at 617-367-0450 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers.


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