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27,000 Massachusetts drunk driving cases in jeopardy after SJC's breathalyzer ruling

Breathalyzer ruling puts 27,000 Mass. drunk driving cases in jeopardy
Breathalyzer ruling puts 27,000 Mass. drunk driving cases in jeopardy 03:03

BOSTON - The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that 27,000 people who pleaded guilty or were convicted on drunk driving charges are eligible for a second chance. 

Back in 2019, an investigation discovered breathalyzer testing machines were not calibrated properly, and that led to flawed test results.

The Supreme Judicial Court found "egregious government misconduct" and ruled all tests from the machine performed between June 1, 2011 and April 18, 2019 should be excluded from criminal prosecutions.

"The scientific attitude in that lab was an us against them, we're right, you're wrong, we're here to produce a guilty finding, as opposed to the scientific aspect that we're here to produce the truth," said Joseph Bernard, the defense attorney who was co-counsel in the case.

Defendants who plead guilty or were convicted with breathalyzer evidence can ask to have their pleas withdrawn or ask for a new trial. The cases are drawing comparisons to the state lab scandal, where thousands of drug cases were tossed out due to chemists Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak falsifying evidence.

Berkshire-based chef Matthew Mottor, who was convicted of drunk driving on a faulty breathalyzer, said many reputations and livelihoods have been hurt and it's important to hear everyone's side of the story.

"You have to drive a lot to make a living, to make a career," said Mottor. "And in my life without having a license, that's basically a career ender."

The Massachusetts State Police said it is "reviewing today's decision and its impact."

"The Office of Alcohol Testing in recent years has implemented significant operational improvements to ensure that breathalyzer certification, case management, discovery processes and employee training are in accordance with all applicable laws and established forensic best practices," agency spokesman Dave Procopio said in a statement. "It is important to note that the OAT operating procedures described in today's decision predate those numerous and substantial reforms."  

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