What are the out of calibration issues with breath test results in Massachusetts

In April of 2015, district attorneys stopped using breath tests results as it was discovered that the machine was producing results even when it was not calibrating properly. District Attorneys in the following counties stopped using breath test results from about April of 2015 until about July 2015.

Some district attorneys continued their use, including Bristol County.

About Calibration

Due to the significance of breath test results in an OUI case, police departments must show that their breath testing devices are reliable. All breathalyzers in Massachusetts have to be’calibrated’ according to MA standards, to show the reliability of the device.

Out-of-Calibration Issues

The out of calibration issue involves the machine conducting a self-test for accuracy. In Massachusetts, the breath test that is used is the Alcotest 9510. This machine self tests itself using a dry gas solution that is suppose to be a .08 alcohol concentration.


Understanding Out-of-Calibration Issues

To understand the out of calibration issues it is helpful to explain how the Massachusetts regulations work governing Breath test results. In every breath test performed in Massachusetts, the machine is suppose to run an internal calibration of itself prior to every test, confirming that the machine can accurately test a known alcohol concentration.

The known alcohol concentration on the Alcotest 9510 is a .08 dry gas solution. When the machine tests itself, the Massachusetts regulations permit a range and consider the test results accurate if it is anywhere from .074 to .086. It was believed that if the machine was outside this calibration range, the machine would report an error. However, the machine permitted the tests results and there were cases throughout the State, where these inappropriate results or unreliable results were used in Court.

In response, the Office of Alcohol Testing prepared a CD that listed all of the out of calibration tests that it found and sent it to defense lawyers. This CD contained over 500 pages of information. In response to this, defense lawyers filed additional requests for discovery to find out the extent of the issue, how the Office of Alcohol Testing concluded what it claimed the error was with the machine. These motions were filed State wide by attorneys and will now be heard by Judge Brennan in the Concord District Court as part of a consolidated challenge to breath test results.

Want to learn more? To learn more about breath test issues in Massachusetts, you can call me directly at 781-686-5924 or check out the FAQ section on BREATHALYZER TEST QUESTIONS. Related Questions
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