You Blew It: A Breath Test Deal Might Impact Thousands of Drunk Driving Cases
As many as 35,000 cases could have breath test evidence thrown out.
In another twist to the case that has drawn comparisons to the conviction-shattering Annie Dookhan drug lab fiasco, a potential new deal struck by district attorneys and lawyers could impact thousands of drunk driving cases that relied on breath tests—as a feud between lawyers and the state office in charge of alcohol screenings has called the results of those on-the-spot tests into question.
Under the agreement, reached by all of the state’s DA’s and a group of lawyers representing alleged drunk drivers, prosecutors would no longer use breath test evidence in drunk driving cases that took place between 2011 and August 31, 2017, WBUR reports. The deal still needs the approval of Concord District Court Justice Robert Brennan.
As many as 35,000 cases could see evidence thrown out. Exceptions could reportedly still be made in cases that involve death.
The move comes after lawyers discovered that the state office Office of Alcohol Testing hid evidence showing some Draeger 9510 machines used by law enforcement in the state yielded inaccurate results. The agreement would also call for the office to get accreditation.
In a statement this week, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said it stood by the devices’ “ability to accurately determine the breath alcohol level of drivers charged with operating under the influence.”
Lawyers involved in the case say removing even a sliver of doubt about alcohol screenings is critical in these cases, especially considering the expense and criminal punishment that is meted out to people who drive drunk. “Our justice system and public deserve more,” Springfield lawyer Joseph Bernard, who represented accused drunk drivers, said in a statement to MassLive. “To be trusted by the public, the evidence used in the justice system has to be correct. If not, then the trial is not fair.”
“I think far from it being a situation that should shake the confidence of the public, it should be an area where we should have greater confidence in the reliability of the instrument,” Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Vincent DeMore said in a statement this week.
An earlier version of this story misattributed a statement to Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Vincent DeMore. The statement has been removed.