Many Massachusetts district attorneys no longer use the results of breathalyzer tests as evidence in drunk driving cases. This change is the result of growing concerns about the accuracy of the devices.
Why are they concerned and how does this affect people charged with driving under the influence?
Concerns about reliability
A defense attorney raised doubts about the accuracy of breathalyzer test results by alleging that the Massachusetts Office of Alcohol Testing used uncertified operators to check the accuracy of the devices. He also raised concerns about how test results were being reported to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and whether testing machines were properly cleaned. He has requested state public safety officials to begin an independent investigation.
Response by the state
The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security claimed that only 38 of the 8,000 breath test operators were not certified in a letter to the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association. A spokesperson added that the devices are reliable and produce valid results.
Affect on DUI cases
Massachusetts district attorneys are still debating how to handle potentially flawed tests, but many are no longer using the results, which may make it more difficult to win cases against people accused of driving while drunk. Without the results of breath tests, the prosecution relies on testimony from police officers and witnesses and field sobriety tests.
The questionable reliability of breath and field sobriety tests is one reason it may be wise to refuse these tests if the police stop you on suspicion of drunk driving.