Lawyers and district attorneys come to an agreement, breathalyzers tests to be used as evidence

Lawyers and district attorneys come to an agreement, breathalyzers tests to be used as evidence
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 8:01 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -For years now, defense attorneys and prosecutors have gone back and forth about the reliability of breathalyzer tests in criminal cases.

Now, they have reached an agreement and the results of those tests will now be used as evidence once again.

Western Mass News spoke with the defense attorney who took on this issue years ago and has been fighting for it since. He said attorneys involved now believe these tests are reliable and fair and can stand up in court.

Litigation has been ongoing for years, about the reliability of breathalyzer tests in the Baystate.

“You need to understand if there’s a problem with these machines and there’s a problem with the results. These results put people in jail, take licenses away,” said Joe Bernard, Lead Counsel in Commonwealth v. Anaias.

Bernard is a criminal defense attorney in Springfield, specializing in operating under the influence cases.

He brought the issues of the Commonwealth’s office of alcohol testing, including Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni. Since 2019, he voluntarily suspended the use of breathalyzer test results as evidence, in criminal prosecution cases, because he did not believe the results could hold up in court.

“His office was at the forefront of shutting down and not utilizing them because he didn’t trust the office of alcohol testing,” Bernard said.

Now, Bernard and district attorneys across the state, have come to an agreement, and a judge has signed off on the agreement and made it into an order. Now, the office of alcohol testing will have someone watching over it, to make sure all reforms or practices are met.

“The individual will be in charge of communicating with the court systems and the lawyers, and giving documents and giving information, as well as training,” explained Bernard.

Gulluni will resume using these test results as evidence in criminal OUI cases. He’s joined by Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan as well.

This doesn’t change much for the Springfield Police Department, since it was their policy to continue to conduct breath tests when dealing with OUI cases.

“Per mass general law, our officers were providing those breathalyzers and those breath tests. What happened down in court, whether or not the evidence was submitted or allowed to be admissible, it doesn’t change how the officers operate,” said Ryan Walsh, spokesperson for the Springfield Police Department.

It may change things for the people who are charged with these types of crimes.

“The breath tests definitely makes the prosecutor job easier, and the defense lawyer’s job harder. but all we’re asking is to play fair,” Bernard said.

Hampden District Attorney Gulluni said this change will go into effect starting Friday, ahead of the busy July Fourth weekend.