Mass. judge temporarily bans alcohol breath tests as evidence in OUI cases


BOSTON (WPRI/AP) — 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.

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.

Thomas Workman, a defense attorney and an expert on breathalyzer tests based out of Taunton, discovered the more than 400 cases involving faulty Breathalyzer machines.

“When the Office of Alcohol Testing came to court and said here are all the of the calibrations, they left some out. Not just a few. But 432 of them that they left out. And that’s not an oversight,” Workman said. “Someone went through and they separated out the failed from the passing ones. And then only gave us the ones that were passing.”

Workman said he found omitted paperwork by matching up electronic records and presenting them in court. He said nearly 2,000 devices didn’t pass calibration.

According to Workman, the machines at one Massachusetts police department had rodent nests inside of them. He said one department also had a machine test positive for MRSA that same year.

Exceptions to the ban 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.

District court judge Robert Brennan ruled Wednesday that the Office of Alcohol Testing must undergo major reforms, from additional training for staff to new rules for getting test results or evidence to attorneys through an online portal.

The technical leader of the office was fired, and prosecutors threw out evidence from thousands of drunken driving cases as a result.

Office officials said with making the operational changes, it’s planning to apply for national accreditation by August 2019.

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