Over 27,000 Massachusetts Drunk Driving Convictions Called Into Question

If you were convicted of drunk driving in Massachusetts, you may qualify for a second chance. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled in April that due to problems with certain breath test machines — and the state’s handling of the issue — around 27,000 people can request to withdraw their guilty plea or seek a new trial.

The ruling follows an investigation revealing that breathalyzers used in a Massachusetts forensic testing lab may have malfunctioned over a period of nearly eight years, leading to potentially faulty results. Citing “egregious government misconduct,” the SJC ruled that alcohol breath tests performed on the devices between June 1, 2011 and April 18, 2019 must be excluded from criminal prosecutions.

Misconduct at State Testing Lab

Breathalyzer technology has been under scrutiny for years in Massachusetts, with consolidated litigation in 2015 challenging the reliability of the machines. The device at the heart of the controversy is the Draeger Alcotest 9510, which has been used by the state Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT) since 2011. An investigation by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security revealed that the OAT failed to turn over hundreds of documents showing tests in which the Alcotest 9510 didn’t calibrate properly.

Investigators found that the OAT covered up the extent of the problems with the device, claiming the failure rate was much lower than it actually was. Not all of the machines were necessarily calibrated incorrectly during the period in question. However, the SJC concluded that all 27,000 defendants who had Alcotest 9510 results used against them had their rights violated because the state crime lab withheld evidence.

Defendants Eligible for New Trials

The use of Alcotest 9510 evidence in criminal prosecutions has been suspended multiple times over the years. In fact, by 2021 most Massachusetts district attorneys had stopped using breathalyzer results due to reliability concerns. The Massachusetts State Police say that the breath test machines now in use are working properly. However, drunk driving convictions (and guilty pleas) that involved Alcotest 9510 evidence from June 1, 2011 to April 18, 2019 qualify for new trials. The old breathalyzer results cannot be used in the new trial.

Massachusetts Drunk Driving Defense Attorneys

If you received a drunk driving conviction that used breathalyzer evidence from the affected time period, you may be eligible for a new trial. We have been following this issue carefully and can help look out for your best interests. Whether you believe you qualify for a new trial or were recently charged with OUI (Operating Under the Influence), the best way to protect your rights is to contact an experienced local defense attorney.

At Altman & Altman LLP, we have been successfully handling Massachusetts drunk driving cases for over 50 years. Our professional OUI defense attorneys know how to investigate your case, analyze the relevant information, and represent you in court. So call us at 800.481.6199 or contact us online for a free confidential consultation with a skilled Massachusetts OUI lawyer today.

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