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The Massachusetts breathalyzer test is a tool used by law enforcement to determine driver impairment and gather evidence in support of OUI/DUI charges.  In practice, however, the results of the test aren’t black and white. Below are five different ways a Massachusetts breathalyzer test can affect the outcome of a first DUI offense.

1. Decreased Likelihood of Arrest or Conviction (Passed Test)

The legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content in the Bay State is 0.08%. Any driver who takes a Massachusetts breathalyzer test and registers a BAC under 0.08% is less likely to be arrested for OUI/DUI.  A police officer still has the authority to arrest you if other compelling evidence shows that you are too impaired to drive a vehicle safely.  However, the existence of a legally permissible reading from a Massachusetts breathalyzer device will make it more difficult to convict you in a court for driving drunk.

2. Automatic 180-day License Suspension (Refused Test)

Drivers who refuse Massachusetts breathalyzer tests for a first DUI offense will receive immediate 180-day license suspensions. This is an administrative suspension from the RMV tied specifically to Massachusetts breathalyzer refusal and is not a criminal penalty.  This means that the state will require you to serve the full duration, regardless of whether the case is dismissed, you’re convicted of your first DUI/OUI in court, or you’re found to be innocent.

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3. 30-day License Suspension and Incriminating Evidence (Failed Test)

Drivers who take a Massachusetts breathalyzer test and register a BAC at or over the legal limit of 0.08% will be arrested and charged with DUI. Furthermore, drivers who fail the DUI breath test receive automatic 30-day suspensions of their Massachusetts driver’s license, effective immediately.  Again, this is an administrative penalty from the RMV for failing a breath test, and it will occur regardless of the outcome of any criminal OUI/DUI case.  

4. Weaken the Prosecution’s Case (Successfully Challenged Test)

The existence of a failed breath test cannot, on its own, guarantee that a driver will be proven guilty in a court of law. This is because there are many valid reasons to question or challenge Massachusetts breathalyzer test results.  Some of these include:

  • The margin of error of the breathalyzer device
  • Improper calibration or maintenance of the device
  • Burps or the presence of mouth alcohol
  • Mouthwash or other interfering substances
  • Health conditions are known to inflate OUI/DUI breath test results in some people
  • Scientific evidence that breathalyzers use unreliable technology
  • Failure to observe a required 15 minute observation period before administration of the Massachusetts breathalyzer test

If the defense can raise any doubts about the reliability, accuracy, or proper administration of the Massachusetts breathalyzer test, the results can be thrown out, weakening the prosecution’s case.

5. Past Conviction Vacated (Period of Invalid Tests)

Even if you’ve already been convicted for a first DUI, this may not be the end of your story. An ongoing legal case involving the Draeger Alcotest 9150 (the only law enforcement-operated Massachusetts breathalyzer device) means that the breath test results for 27,000 people convicted of drunken driving between June 2011 and April 2019 may be invalid.  The state of Massachusetts recently sent notices to defendants in all relevant cases to let them know they may be “entitled to have those convictions vacated as a result of improperly calibrated breath test machines — and efforts by now-former state officials to hide the true scope of the problem.”

If you’ve failed or refused a Massachusetts breathalyzer test, seek local legal counsel immediately. A qualified DUI attorney familiar with your area will advise you on the laws, policies, and ongoing legal ramifications around breathalyzer tests in your particular area. Drivers from Worcester County, for instance, should seek advice from legal experts with extensive knowledge of the Worcester County court system and precedents set in cases within that area. Contact us today for an evaluation of your case.

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