Massachusetts is one of the few states where drivers have no legal obligation to take a field sobriety test. Now, thousands of past convictions of operating a vehicle under the influence are now questionable because of faulty breath test results.
Learn more about whether you may qualify for a new trial and how to challenge a breath test in Massachusetts.
Accuracy of breath test results
The new initiative stems from a recently settled lawsuit alleging that the state did not currently maintain the machines that officers use for field sobriety breath tests. From 2011 to 2017, more than 36,000 breath tests indicated that a Massachusetts driver was over the legal limit, resulting in one of the largest evidence problems in the history of the state.
Documents from the Office of Alcohol Testing showed that the state did not properly calibrate the breath testing machines. As a result of these findings, Melissa O’Meara lost her job as head of the OAT.
Eligible OUI offenses
The availability of a new trial applies to OUI convictions dating from June 2011 to April 2017. If you received a conviction based on breath test evidence presented in court, you could potentially be eligible for dismissal of the charges.
Requesting a new trial
If your OUI conviction meets the criteria above, you can file a motion with the applicable court requesting a new trial. At this new trial, the judge will not introduce your breath test results as evidence. However, if you caused an OUI accident that resulted in another person’s serious injury or death, the breath test results will stand.
Drivers on the road in Massachusetts have the right to refuse a breath test. Doing so will not prevent you from an OUI arrest, but your refusal will not count as evidence against you. Simply politely and clearly tell the officer that you do not consent to a field sobriety test. An arrest must rely on other evidence of impairment.