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Why Massachusetts Banned Breathalyzer Tests

Written by on May 12, 2020

In January of 2019, a judge from Massachusetts issued a moratorium on the practice of using breathalyzer tests as evidence against DUI defendants. The judge ordered the state to prove that they had made improvements to the process of using breath results before they could continue using breathalyzer evidence in court.

Of course, this did not stop them from convicting motorists of DUI. Breathalyzer tests are not the only (or most accurate) means available to law enforcement to get DUI convictions. But what exactly led up to the moratorium on breath tests? We will discuss this in more detail below.

“Misconduct” Cited as Reason for Moratorium

The judge who issued the moratorium stated that “misconduct” was the reason why prosecutors would no longer be allowed to present breath results in Massachusetts courts to convict DUI defendants. He also accused law enforcement of “damaging the criminal justice system.” As the ruling came down, thousands of breath evidence results were tossed from the records.


Prosecutors were shown to have hidden evidence that the machines were not properly calibrated. In some cases, this delivered results that inflated the scores by up to 40%. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of defendants were convicted on phony breathalyzer results, but vacating these convictions means that the defendants would have to essentially prove their own innocence.

There are some exceptions to the breathalyzer ban (such as DUI that results in a fatality) and police can still use the results to arrest those suspected of DUI. Why would they when they have a better test at their disposal? Blood tests cannot be administered roadside, but they do produce more accurate results. This evidence is much more difficult for a DUI defense attorney to argue against in a court of law. So if prosecutors are incentivized to prosecute a case before a jury, why wouldn’t they use the better test?

Why Blood Tests are More Accurate

Blood tests measure the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream or your blood alcohol content. A blood sample is taken and then preserved after which it is sent to a lab for analysis. The lab heats up the blood sample and burns off the alcohol and a device measures the amount of alcohol that is burned off. So long as the amount of blood drawn is the correct amount and the blood is refrigerated before testing, it makes it very difficult for a DUI lawyer to formulate a defense against the results.

Talk to a Fort Wayne, IN DUI Lawyer Today

If you are being charged with DUI, a breathalyzer test may seem like damning evidence, but it is not. A skilled Fort Wayne DUI attorney can analyze how the test was conducted, how the machine was calibrated, and more factors that could produce a false positive. Call The Bellinger Law Office today for more information. We can help. 

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