What is the challenge to the breath test source code in Massachusetts?

What is the source code?

The “source code” of the breath test, and most computerized devices, is the code written by computer programmers when they develop the software thst runs the machine. As the source code is written by programmers that created the breath test, having access to that code allows defense attorneys to have the code analyzed by a programming expert to determine whether the machine has any errors or faults.

DUI defense lawyers first challenged the source code of the breath test machine in a case called State v. Chun, in 2008. This challenge was to the Alcotest 7110, that was used in Massachusetts until about October of 2012.

Massachusetts OUI Lawyers started a source code challenge in 2011; however, the judge denied the request for an evidentiary hearing. The case was appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in a case called Commonwealth v. Camblin, decided on June 15, 2015. In this case, the SJC held that the judge committed error of law in not holding an evidentiary hearing to address the defense source code challenges.

The Camblin Court ordered a hearing to be held on 3 issues raised by the defense. See the table below to read them.

Issues raised by the Camblin defense:
  1. Defense experts found numerous errors in the computer source code for the Alcotest 7110. The Court ordered a hearing to determine whether these errors make the breath test unre- liable, given that any complex software will have source code errors according to both experts.
  2. Is the Alcotest sufficiently specific for Alcohol, given that other compounds can be con- fused for alcohol? When testing for alcohol, the breath test assumes that any substance at a certain micron level is alcohol. Other compounds could have could have a similar molecular
  3. The calibration of the breath test. Court ordered the judge to hold a hearing to determine if the breath test was conducting a proper calibration under the Massachusetts Code of Regula- tions.

In light of the Camblin case, defense lawyers made challenge to the accuracy of the breath test relative to the Alcotest 9510. It is anticipated that the Court will hold a hearing to address the issues raised by the Camblin case. As it stands now, the case is in the beginning stages, with the Court scheduling hearings to determine how the evidentiary hearing will be conducted.

  • When a defense lawyer makes a challenge to the reliability of scientific evidence, a Daubert Hearing.
  • At this hearing, a judge determine whether scientific evidence is sufficiently reliable to be presented inCourt at a trial.
Want to learn more?

To learn more about breath test challenges in Massachusetts, you can call me directly at 781-686-5924 or read these Blog posts describing the issue in further detail.

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