The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts heard arguments on December 8th of 2022 in Commonwealth v. Lindsay A. Hallinan. Hallinan, facing OUI charges back in 2013, “admitted to sufficient facts” in a Salem District Court. In doing so Hallinan agreed that the prosecution had sufficient evidence to prove Hallinan’s guilt. In essence, admitting to sufficient facts functions as a guilty plea but avoids an official guilty plea on Hallinan’s criminal record, provided she complied with certain circumstances. She was ultimately placed on two years of probation, served two weeks in a residential treatment program for alcohol abuse, and was required to install an ignition interlock device on her car.
Lindsay Hallinan: The Name Behind the Case That Could Call Tens of Thousands of OUI Verdicts into Question
However, only after Hallinan pled to sufficient facts, it was revealed that some breathalyzer machines, which are used to measure a person’s blood alcohol content and are standard procedure in OUI cases across the country, had not been routinely calibrated which called their accuracy into question. Hallinan and her attorneys now argue that she would not have pleaded to sufficient facts had she known that there were issues with the breathalyzer machines and their accuracy. She claims that the prosecutors presented this breathalyzer evidence as a scientific, conclusive fact, and it was held out as evidence that was unimpeachable. Hallinan felt she had no choice.
The revelation that the breathalyzer machines had not undergone routine calibration led to extensive investigation and litigation by Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). They issued a report in 2017, concluding that the Draeger Alcotest 9510 machines had a much higher error rate than the Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT) claimed. This report revealed that the OAT concealed the extent of the machine’s problems, stating a failure rate of less than 1%, which the EOPSS investigation directly contradicts. The investigation also found that OAT’s conduct went well beyond overstating the machine’s accuracy. It was found that OAT covered up the breathalyzer test’s calibration documents which directly indicated a higher failure rate than OAT purported.
In 2021, then-District Court Judge Robert Brennan ruled, due to these findings, that all tests conducted with the Draeger Alcotest 9510 between 2011 and 2019 should not be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions. Judge Brennan’s ruling compelled the state of Massachusetts to notify the 27,000 people who had OUI cases during that time that their case was based on evidence that has since been called into question. Brennan left it up to the state’s highest court to determine if the conduct of the OAT employees should allow for dismissals or new trials for all 27,000 cases involved in this scandal.
The Court’s Ruling Is Expected by Summer of 2023
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts’ ruling may have widespread effects, and could call for 27,000 dismissals or new trials in the coming year.
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