Lawrence District Court Judge Mark Sullivan ruled last week that the Alcotest, the widely used breathalyzer machine, is “generally accepted as reliable.”
More than 60 defendants from Middlesex, Hampden, and Essex Counties joined together to argue that the breathalyzer machine used in Massachusetts to determine whether an operator is under the influence of alcohol is unreliable. Had Judge Sullivan ruled for the defendants, the legitimacy of hundreds of prior convictions could have been questioned.
At issue was the reliability of the Alcotest 7110, which is used to determine whether a drunk-driving suspect has a blood-alcohol level above .08 percent, the legal limit for driving in most states. The machine relies on a microprocessor with approximately 60,000 lines of source code to interpret the breath-test results. In his decision, Sullivan cited a 2008 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that rejected alleged flaws in the source code.
“We agree with the court’s finding that Massachusetts law expressly states that such breath-test evidence is admissible and that such evidence is reliable,” Middlesex DA Gerard Leone said. “This is an important decision, which allows police and prosecutors to continue to be able to protect the public from impaired drivers.”
“It is a good decision based on the law,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. “The Breathalyzer is a tool which is absolutely necessary in our ongoing fight to keep our roads safe.”