OUI defendants may be entitled to new trial based on unreliable breathalyzer results

Massachusetts

GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office will begin contacting people eligible for a new trial of their OUI and convictions this week.

The office said they are mailing letters to roughly 3,100 Franklin and Hampshire County offenders. Those people have a right to challenge their convictions.

Judge Brennan recently ruled that the methods used to calibrate alcohol breathalyzers by the Office of Alcohol Testing was producing scientifically unreliable results in the field. The faulty calibration stretched from June 2011 to September 2014.

However, it took until 2019 for the state’s Office of Alcohol Testing to receive accreditation. 22News spoke with one of the lawyers who worked toward this litigation.

“From 2011-2019 these breath tests that were utilized in prosecuting cases can now be revisited,” said Joe Bernard. “These 27,000 citizens have a new opportunity to bring it back into court.”

Bernard recommends consulting with a lawyer before deciding whether to revisit a case. He said all eligible citizens should receive their letters by this Thursday.

“All criminal defendants who took the breathalyzer between 2011 and 2018 and were subsequently convicted of OUI-alcohol will receive letters notifying them of their right to challenge their convictions. This includes defendants who went to trial and were found guilty; defendants who resolved their cases through guilty pleas; and defendant whose cases were “continued without a finding” and eventually dismissed after successfully completing a short period of probation. If an eligible defendant chooses to challenge their conviction, they may be entitled to a new trial, at which the Commonwealth would have to prove their guilt without relying upon the breathalyzer result.”

Mary Carey, Communications Director- Northwestern District Attorney’s Office

Statewide, about 27,000 convictions are eligible for appeal.

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