Thousands of OUI offenders in Mass. may be getting new trial due to unreliable breathalyzer results

BOSTON — Thousands of people found guilty of driving drunk in Massachusetts may be able to get a new trial.

25 Investigates has obtained a draft version of a letter to be sent out to over 27,000 OUI offenders across the state who pleaded guilty or were found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol between June 2011 and April 2019.

If their conviction was based on evidence from a breathalyzer machine, they will be able to challenge it and possibly even have the OUI charge wiped from their record.

This all stems from a court battle that has gone on for years where a judge found that breathalyzer results in the state were unreliable because the state Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT) failed to properly maintain the machines.

The letter says, in part, “You might have served time, paid fines or probation or had problems with your employment. You cannot get back the liberty you lost, but you can try to rid yourself of the tainted conviction.”

Defense Attorney Joseph Bernard, who led the charge on this case, believes a lot of OUI cases will be overturned.

“If a citizen plead guilty or was found guilty and the breath test had a significant impact on the decision-making analysis or the fact finder, then I would suggest that they should be optimistic that it can be vacated,” said Bernard.

Breathalyzer evidence was temporarily banned in Massachusetts, but the ban has since been lifted.

The letter will include a special hotline people can call for more information about challenging a conviction. A special website with the information will also be created.

Related coverage:

Agreement could throw out breathalyzer results in 34,000 drunk driving cases

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