When it comes to defending their clients, defense attorneys deserve all the information that they can get. However, one state police agency is holding back on DUI data. The data relates to the reliability of breath tests. As a result, it’s essential information for defense attorneys. They need it to defend individuals with DUI charges. Multiple times, the state police agency failed to release the much-needed data. Find out the whole story.
Who Can the DUI Data Help?
Many suspected drunk drivers find themselves in trouble with the law. Often, that trouble is a result of failed breathalyzer tests. The DUI data speaks to the reliability of those breathalyzers. If the test is unreliable, some innocent drivers could find themselves facing penalties for a crime they did not commit.
The data could help at least hundreds of people charged with drinking and driving. However, the scope could be even greater. With the DUI data, thousands of individuals could get the help they need to defend themselves. It’s impossible to say exactly how many people could benefit from the data, but there is no doubt that it will help many.
In a 126-page report, the Executive Office of Public Safety stated that the Office of Alcohol Testing made mistakes. When defense attorneys asked for DUI data, the office refused to help. Run by the Massachusetts State Police, the Office of Alcohol Testing left lawyers in the lurch. They declined to provide lawyers with the evidence that could help their clients.
Everything came to light when a few lawyers filed a complaint. They explained the situation and revealed that they were unable to get the documentation their clients needed and deserved.
The issue is with one specific breathalyzer machine. In Massachusetts, the Draeger 9510 Alcotest is one type of breathalyzer. The state started using them in 2011. However, the results of the breathalyzer may not be what they seem. Attorneys who represent about 750 defendants had doubts about the reliability of the machine. With potential maintenance and calibration issues, the machine left attorneys doubtful that its results were accurate.
To verify their claims, the attorneys needed DUI data. But the Office of Alcohol Testing was not willing to comply. One Springfield attorney filed a motion that accused them of intentionally withholding evidence. The same lawyer pointed out that every person who blew into the Draeger 9510 Alcotest is affected by the faulty machine.
The Office of Alcohol and Testing didn’t always ignore the requests for discovery. Instead, they would give attorneys some information. However, they would only provide basic information. Many times, they failed to provide documentation that revealed the weakness of a breathalyzer machine. Some of the DUI data showed that a device did not calibrate correctly. Meanwhile, other data showed how often a device went in for repair work. Unfortunately, that useful information never made it into the hands of defense attorneys.
The Office of Alcohol Testing admitted that their policy did not allow for much disclosure. In fact, their exact words were to “minimize disclosure.” Omitting key documents wasn’t only a personal choice by staff members, but an office policy. After realizing that this policy caused injustice, the office decided to make some changes.
In response to the Office of Alcohol Testing’s lack of cooperation, the state terminated Melissa O’Meara. As the former technical leader at the office, Melissa took the blame for the agency’s unwillingness to cooperate. To fill her position, the state will appoint Massachusetts undersecretary for Forensic Science and Technology Curtis Woods. The state plans to employ new policies that will make for more cooperation with defense attorneys. There is a document that outlines the long list of procedural changes. However, it will take time for the changes to gain approval and to be enforced. Until then, a retired judge will help the office handle any discovery requests. With these changes, the office should be able to provide DUI data to lawyers.
Are Breathalyzers Accurate?
Although the DUI data contains important information about one specific breathalyzer, it doesn’t prove that all breathalyzers are inaccurate. The report shows no evidence that relates to inaccuracies in all breathalyzers. While breathalyzers aren’t the most accurate test for detecting drunk driving, they are acceptable. This report only showed that the one particular breathalyzer was not reliable.
In the state of Massachusetts, there are approximately 400 breathalyzers. According to officials, they are all in working order. They feel that the DUI data won’t have as big of an impact as defense lawyers believe. However, the faulty breathalyzer devices could affect many people. And there’s no way to guarantee that every other device is perfect.
In conclusion, the only way to make sure that you aren’t a victim of a faulty device is to speak to a lawyer. Injustice occurs in the legal system. However, there are ways to fight that injustice. Contact a lawyer to make sure that you don’t become a victim.