Operating under the influence (OUI) is a major crime in the state of Massachusetts and in the United States. Indeed, this crime is taken seriously due to the massive loss of life that occurs each year due to drunk driving accidents. For example, according to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, 10,497 people were killed in alcohol-impaired traffic accidents in 2016. However, this statistic is actually considered positive, because it is a 28% decrease from the 13,041 alcohol-impaired accident fatalities that occurred in 2007. The reason for this massive decrease within a little over a decade can largely be attributed to the harsh OUI laws enacted in each state.
A large percentage of people in the United States have learned that the costs associated with an OUI conviction are simply too high, but people still make mistakes. For example, in the state of Massachusetts, there were 81 alcohol-impaired accident fatalities that involved a driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher in 2016, and our state is still trying to reduce the number of OUIs by launching public education campaigns like the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign that was launched again on August 10, 2018. Despite these efforts, there are still a lot of common misconceptions about OUI cases.
Field Sobriety Tests in Massachusetts
Mass.Gen.Laws ch.90§24 defines the various factors that must be present to charge you with OUI. For example, if you are age 21 or older and driving a non-commercial vehicle, you must have a BAC of .08% or higher to be charged with OUI. Moreover, Mass.Gen.Laws ch.90§24 also establishes Massachusetts’ “implied consent” law, which states that anyone who accepts a driver’s license in the commonwealth gives their implied consent to submit to a breathalyzer or other chemical test to determine their BAC level if suspected of OUI. Failure to do so will result in you having your driver’s license suspended for 180 days on your first offense.
There is, however, no law in Massachusetts that requires you to take a field sobriety test. In fact, if you have been drinking, a recorded field sobriety test could be used against you in a court of law to demonstrate your level of intoxication. Refusal to take the test will often cause the officer to give you a breathalyzer test, which is not as accurate as you may believe.
Are Breathalyzers Accurate?
If you are charged with OUI, one thing the state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that you were intoxicated at the time of your arrest to the point where your BAC level surpassed the legal limit. To accomplish this, they will more than likely use the results from the breathalyzer test that was administered, but lawyers have been challenging the accuracy of breathalyzer tests for some time due to the findings of various studies that have shown the test’s flaws.
For example, a study was conducted in the UK with 208 participants that tested the efficacy of breathalyzers that could be purchased publicly. Two out of the three breathalyzers were found to indicate that 1 out of 20 participants was under the legal drinking limit when they were over. One breathalyzer was found to indicate that one out four participants was under the legal limit when they were over. The opposite can be true as well. Age, race, gender, and the physical condition of your body can all affect the accuracy of a breathalyzer test, which allows the results of the test itself to be challenged by an aggressive OUI lawyer in court.