The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that prosecutors no longer have to ask a technician to testify that the breathalyzer machine was functioning correctly in drinking and driving cases. In the Commonwealth v. Zoanne Zeininger, SJC-10758, the state’s highest court refuted claims by Zoanne Zeininger, who had a breathalyzer test administered and was then convicted of operating a motor vehicle under the influence, that the certification of the machine and maintenance records was testimony and thus the technician who had prepared them should be cross-examined by her defense.
Zeininger´s defense argued that the Constitution´s Sixth Amendment gives people the right to cross-examine the witnesses against them and also referred to a United States Supreme Court case, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 129 S.Ct. 2527 (2009), in which justices ruled that drug lab experts should testify because drug analysis certificates were used as testimony. The Court resolved that it was a violation of the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation for a prosecutor to submit a drug test report without the lab technician´s testimony.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court also referred to a section of the Melendez-Diaz case in which it admitted that “documents prepared in the regular course of equipment maintenance may well qualify as nontestimonial records.” Thus, as written by Justice Robert Cordy, in Commonwealth v. Zoanne Zeininger, the court ruled that the “records are non-testimonial, and their admission without the live testimony of the technician who prepared them did not violate the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment.” They also noted that such machine and maintenance records were solely office records, in order to “guarantee, internally, as a matter of course, and when necessary, in court, the accuracy and standardization of all breathalyzer testing across the various police departments of the Commonwealth.”
David E. Sullivan, Northwestern District Attorney, commented “I am very pleased that the SJC accepted our argument that requiring breathalyzer technicians to testify in every OUI trial is wholly unnecessary.”
If you have been in a Massachusetts car accident involving drinking and driving, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced a Massachusetts car accident lawyer.
SJC rejects challenge to breathalyzer test certification, Boston Globe, May 24, 2011
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