What You Need to Know About Breathalyzer Tests in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, one of the ways the prosecution can prove that a person was “operating under the influence” is if they can prove a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over the legal limit. This is called a “per se” violation of OUI laws. This can be proved by a “failed” breathalyzer which establishes an actual quantifiable number that, in the view of the prosecution, proves the defendant was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. However, breathalyzer tests are an imperfect science and a proficient Massachusetts criminal defense firm understands the ins-and-outs of breathalyzer testing and can help you challenge them. 

How does a breathalyzer test work?

A breathalyzer test is easy to administer and non-invasive. It requires the person being tested to breathe into a small machine where the amount of alcohol being released by the capillaries in their lungs is measured. In Massachusetts, a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reading of anything over 0.08% is considered to be over the legal limit. This is actually a low threshold and some research has indicated a person that has had only two or three beers can test over a 0.08% BAC.

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test?

In Massachusetts, a person is allowed to refuse to take a breathalyzer test. However, there are penalties for a refusal. 

What are the penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test?

When a person refuses a breathalyzer test in Massachusetts, their license is automatically suspended, and the length of the suspension depends on whether or not there have been any prior refusals. Their car is also automatically impounded for up to 12 hours. However, the refusal may not be used as evidence against them at their criminal trial. 

Drivers 21 Years of Age and Older

Depending on whether or not the driver has any past convictions for OUI (Operating Under the Influence), penalties can range from 180 days to a lifetime suspension.

Drivers 18 to 21 Years of Age

Depending on whether or not the driver has any past convictions for OUI, penalties can range from 3 years + 180 days to a lifetime suspension. 

Drivers Under the age of 18

Depending on whether or not the driver has any past convictions for OUI, penalties can range from 4 years to a lifetime suspension.

What are the penalties for failing a breathalyzer test?

If an individual agrees to a breathalyzer test and their BAC tests above a 0.08%, the amount of time they will have their license suspended depends on whether or not they have any prior OUI convictions. Suspension can range from 30 days to a lifetime suspension.

How reliable are breathalyzer tests?

There is evidence that the results of breathalyzer tests are sometimes flawed. This can be a result of inherent flaws in the testing device, or methyl alcohols found in some medications and naturally occurring in the body in some diseases. It is important to disclose to your attorney all information regarding your health and the circumstances of your testing. 

In Massachusetts, the breathalyzer test produced by the Draeger Alcotest 9510 has long been controversial. After years of litigation, a judge ruled that the machines produced unreliable results raising questions about the legality of thousands of drunk driving convictions. A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you challenge the reliability of breathalyzer evidence in your case.

What should I do if I have refused or failed a breathalyzer test?

If you have failed or refused a breathalyzer test in Massachusetts, you need the professional legal assistance of Attorney Ambar Maceo-Rossi, an attorney with a focus on criminal defense. You may reach our firm by calling 1-607-208-0505 or via our contact page

Posted in OUI