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NYSP breathalyzer model at center of 20,000 case controversies in Massachusetts

May 16, 2018 06:35 PM

The machine used by New York State Police to see if you're driving drunk is the very same one at the center of 20,000 case controversies in Massachusetts. 

It's an issue with the breathalyzer. In Massachusetts they found that when it wasn't getting re-calibrated properly, the test levels started going up. And the lawyer News10NBC talked to says there are people in jail because of it. 

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And it's the same breathalyzer used by the New York State Police. 

The machine is called the Alcotest 9510. 

Joe Bernard, DWI attorney Springfield MA: "We started identifying a problem with the breathalyzer approximately three, three and a half years ago."

Joe Bernard is a DWI lawyer in Springfield Massachusetts. He says more than 20,000 DWI cases were affected by faulty readings. 

Brean: "When we talk about affected cases, does that mean previous convictions were thrown out?"

Joe Bernard, DWI attorney Springfield MA: "Yes."

Brean: "Really?"

Joe Bernard, DWI attorney Springfield MA: "The previous convictions in Massachusetts date back to 2011."

Bernard says police in Massachusetts weren't re-booting and testing the machines on time and after while they started registering higher alcohol levels. In Massachusetts, breath test results cannot be used in any trial. 

If you get stopped by New York State Police, this is the machine they use.  

Trooper Mark O'Donnell, New York State Police: "Our equipment goes to Albany every three months or six months to get calibrated and tested and then brought back once it's proven accurate. If we felt there were any issues with the equipment that we're using, we wouldn't use it."

Today News10NBC searched the records in Massachusetts and found the December court decision that said the breathalyzer was "reliable" and "poses a very remote chance of returning a falsely high BAC result on a magnitude of a million to one." 

Brean: "Shouldn't that tell us that if a police department uses those devices the results are reliable?"

Joe Bernard, DWI attorney Springfield MA: "Oh no! And that's exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't maintain the machine properly, if you don't calibrate it properly, if you don't care for it then you're going to get scientifically unreliable results. And all of a sudden the result, if elevated to a point where citizens either go to jail, they lose their license and it's not until weeks, months or years afterwards we discover the problem."

I was not able to find any cases in New York State affected by this breathalyzer. I checked with every major police department in our area. They all use a different breathalyzer. Only the state police use the Alcotest 9510. 


 

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