Over 80% of OUI cases heard by a Massachusetts Judge and 50% of OUI cases in a jury trial are dismissed. This high rate of acquittals led the Boston Globe to launch a spotlight investigation on the matter in December of 2011. The findings of the final report show that the high rate of acquittals is due to the reluctance of prosecutors to dismiss flawed OUI cases, the improper administration of breath and blood tests, the inaccuracies from the results of those tests, and the prosecutions’ high burden of proof in regards to satisfying the elements of an OUI case. Most frequently, the arresting officer improperly administers the breath test on the suspect, thus leading to the inadmissibility of the evidence and the failure of the prosecution to proffer evidence of the suspect’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Breath testing instruments are small hand held pieces of technology, which like most technology, are often prone to errors. In fact, research indicates that breath tests can vary at least 15% from actual blood alcohol concentration. At least 23% (that’s about one out of every four) of all individuals tested will have a BAC reading higher than their actual BAC. Therefore, the findings of the test leave a lot to be interpreted and analyzed by your attorney and the judge presiding over your case.
DEFENSES TO BREATH TEST RESULTS
Breath testing instruments most commonly experience problems with calibration, interfering substances, and mouth alcohol. Most breathalyzers require recalibration at least once a year to maintain accuracy. Thus, if the tester has not received the proper recalibration maintenance, it may lead to inaccuracies and false readings of the machine. Additionally, there are non-alcoholic substances that can contribute to a false reading such as the weight, health, metabolism, diet, and mental health of the subject. Medical illnesses such as diabetes, emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma can also have a dramatic impact on the results of the test. Breath testing instruments are also quite sensitive to temperature; the machine is calibrated to test the breath at 34 degrees centigrade, but studies show that at the time of OUI arrest, people generally come closer to 35.5 degrees centigrade. The result of this can mean a 10-20% higher reading.