Mass. Judge Bans Use Of Breathalyzer Test In Court

A Massachusetts district court judge has ruled that alcohol breath tests will continue to be excluded as evidence from most drunken driving cases until the state police's troubled Office of Alcohol Testing is nationally accredited.

Exceptions include OUI cases in which there was death or serious injury and in cases where the defendant is facing a fifth or subsequent OUI offense.

The Springfield Republican reported Wednesday that Judge Robert Brennan says the office must undergo major reforms and links the general admissibility of breath test evidence to the office submitting an application for accreditation that is "likely to succeed."

The decision comes after a judge found the office failed to release information to prosecutors and defense attorneys that more than 400 breath test machines were calibrated improperly. The machines were later re-calibrated to work correctly.

Attorney Joseph Bernard praised the Brennan's decision.

"People to go jail, people lose their license, and the judge is essentially saying, if you're going to be putting liberties at risk, you better be precise," Bernard told WBUR. "You better be accurate and the only way you're going to do that is to show accreditation."

In a statement, Felix Browne, spokesperson for the state's Executive Office of Public Safety, said the "Office of Alcohol Testing is working diligently toward seeking accreditation and intends to submit its application for accreditation within the next 60 days."

And, he added: "The Office has implemented a number of key reforms over the last year and is confident that following a comprehensive review process, the accrediting body will award full accreditation."

Correction: This story has been corrected to show that that some breath tests will continue to be admitted as evidence in the most egregious cases. We regret the error.

WBUR's Newscast Unit also contributed to this report.

This article was originally published on January 10, 2019.


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