SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – More than 800 people arrested for drunk driving in the past year in Massachusetts have their cases in limbo; 250 of those cases are from western Massachusetts.
“Any breath test that is pending in the courts from the Berkshires all the way to the Cape there’s a moratorium, the case can’t go forward, it can’t go before a jury,” said Springfield Attorney Joseph Bernard.
Attorney Bernard is one of the lawyers challenging the reliability of breathalyzers. A class action lawsuit has been filed against the state.
“We are a blood alcohol state,” said Attorney Bernard. “This machine doesn’t test your blood it tests your breath, it’s really is an indirect test of what your blood alcohol is. We believe the entire science is unreliable and we believe there is an unreliability in how these machines are being used and maintained.”
- “Operator error” caused problems with breathalyzers
- Nine Hampden County OUI cases potentially affected by breathalyzer calibration error
- Breathalyzer test results will resume in drunk driving cases
It’s not the breath tests in the field, it’s the breathalyzer machines at police stations whose reliability is being questioned.
This goes back to early 2015 when several District Attorney’s suspended the use of breath tests as evidence. The state had detected a number of tests were flawed. The state eventually blamed officers saying they didn’t calibrate the machine correctly. Attorney Bernard told the I-Team that the company that makes the breathalyzers hasn’t proved they are accurate.
(If these breathalyzers are deemed unreliable does this blow up O.U.I. cases across the state?)
“I don’t know if it blows them up, you still can go forward, there’s a lot of physical evidence you can go forward on, you just can’t use that particular number. So I don’t know if it blows them up, but what it might do is prohibit inaccurate information getting before juries,” said Attorney Bernard.
The number he’s referring to is your blood alcohol level. .08 or greater is considered under the influence in Massachusetts. This case returns to court next month.
Bernard told the I-Team this could potentially led to the state having to use a blood test instead of a breathalyzer. We called the Hampden and Northwestern District Attorney’s, but they didn’t want to talk about it while the case is pending.