Breathalyzer Test Results Questioned by Massachusetts Courts

A consolidated case is being heard in Concord, the Milford Daily News reports, that will determine whether the use of breathalyzer testing devices to gather proof that a driver was operating a vehicle under the influence (OUI) of alcohol is scientifically sound. The reliability of the chemical breath testing devices is in question, which has prompted the courts to put a hold on hundreds of pending OUI cases across the state until the matter of whether these testing devices produced reliable evidence of a DUI.

How Did This Come About?

Earlier this year, Massachusetts Executive Officer of Public Safety and Security revealed that many of the devices used to test for intoxication in suspected drunk drivers were not programmed with the correct calibration settings, making the test results of thousands of OUI suspects subject to error. The specific devices in question are the Draeger Safety Diagnostics Alcotest 9510, which has been used to test thousands of drivers across Massachusetts.

The judge presiding over the case, Salem District Court Judge Robert A. Brennan, required Draeger Safety Diagnostics to release the source code for the affected specific model of the breathalyzer device, and has required the Office of Alcohol Testing to produce documents concerning their evaluations of the breathalyzer devices.

This Case Could Make Breathalyzer Evidence Unreliable in Hundreds of OUI Cases

The present case will turn on whether the possibility of error in the breathalyzer devices is high enough to undermine the reliability of the test. Reliable breathalyzer readings are critical to the usefulness of breathalyzer test results being useful evidence. State law requires breathalyzer devices to calibrate a “dry air” test (a test where the test sample is known to be at 0.08% alcohol concentration) between 0.074% and 0.086%. However, the calibration settings on the Alcotest 9510 model were set to a default tolerance range of 0.07 and 0.09%.

By having a default calibration tolerance range spanning 0.02%, from 0.07 to 0.09%, as opposed to the state mandated calibration tolerance range spanning only 0.012, from 0.074 to 0.086, the breathalyzer devices that are improperly calibrated are less sensitive than they should be. This means that OUI suspects could be blowing false positives breathalyzer test results when they are over the legal limit.

A similar case is underway in Ayer District Court, where breathalyzer test results from the Draeger Safety Diagnostics Alcotest 7110 model are being questioned. In that case, sixty two OUI cases have been paused to await the outcome of the 7110 breathalyzer case.

Contacting a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney

Breathalyzer tests have been known to be inaccurate. As the pending cases demonstrate, a defective breathalyzer device could produce incorrect readings, and thus unreliable evidence. If you are facing DUI charges, Our Attorney can surely help you with your DUI criminal defense strategy. Please do not hesitate to contact DUI defense Our Attorney either online .