We are excited to tell you about a new case that came down from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on April 26, 2023, Commonwealth v. Hallinan, which deals with older DUI cases, and more specifically, those involving breathalyzer tests.
How Does This Case Apply to You?
- Did you have a DUI case between June 1, 2011, and April 18th, 2019?
- Did you take a breathalyzer test in that case?
- Did the results breathalyzer test (i.e., you failed the breathalyzer test), cause you to either take a plea / admission on the case or go to trial and lose that case and be convicted of that DUI?
If you answered yes to these questions, and you want to overturn your old DUI conviction or plea, Commonwealth v. Hallinan, just made it a lot easier!
In Commonwealth v. Hallinan, the Court addressed problems that were in existence at the Massachusetts Office of Alcohol Testing from June 1, 2011 through April 18, 2019. The Office of Alcohol Testing is the state lab that calibrates and takes care of the breathalyzer test machines in Massachusetts.
In short, there were many problems in the way the lab was managed; how the breath test machines were being calibrated; and how discovery was being produced to defendants. The Court in both Annanias and Hallinan decided that this rose to the level of “egregious government misconduct” and that the breath tests taken from June 1, 2011 through April 18, 2019, should not have been admissible in evidence.
In other words, if at the time these issues had come to light, the breathalyzer test results would not have been used against you during that period of time.
What Can I Do Now?
Since these rulings came out after the relevant time period, the Court has said that you can file a motion for a new trial regardless of whether you took a plea on the DUI case and admitted to doing something, or you went to trial and lost.
The Court also made it a lot easier to do so. The Court in Hallinan said that it has already been established that there was egregious government misconduct, and the evidence should not have been used against you.
Now all you must show is that without the breathalyzer test evidence, there was a “reasonable probability” that you would not have taken the plea and admit to the DUI, or, in the case of a trial, that you would not have been convicted.
What Does All This Mean?
Essentially, without the breath test, the evidence was not so strong against you. That the breath test itself, is what caused you to either take the plea or lose at trial. If you believe you can show this, then you should file a motion for new trial and get the conviction overturned.
What Happens If I Win the Motion for a New Trial?
If you win the Motion for a New Trial, the old conviction is overturned, and the case will be set for a new trial. At this new trial the District Attorney will not be able to use the breathalyzer test results against you. This means that you case just got that much stronger.
Will They Always Make Me Have a Trial?
The short answer is not always. It will be up to he District Attorney whether they want to continue to prosecute the case. In many cases, particularly older ones, the District Attorney may not seek to re-prosecute the case. So, your conviction may stay over overturned forever without having to go through a trial.
What If the District Attorney Does Decide to Re-Prosecute?
If the District Attorney does decide to re-prosecute you, the breathalyzer test will not be used as evidence against you. Your case therefore becomes that much stronger. All the District Attorney will have to use against you will be observations made by an officer several years ago. In many cases just like this the defendant has a good chance of winning at trial.
What If I Lose at the New Trial?
You might be asking yourself, “Okay, well if I go back to trial, there’s no guarantees I could still lose again.” That is true. But the court in Hallinan had addressed that.
In Hallinan, the Court said that if you went back to trial and lost that you could not get any worse sentence than you got the first time around. Essentially because you’ve already done certain things, and they should take that into account. You should receive credit for the sentence / things that were required of you after the plea or conviction.
This includes any license suspension. This is what is important to a lot of people because they’re like, “Well, if I go to trial and lose, is my license going to get re-suspended?”
The court in Hallinan has specifically said that due to double jeopardy concerns, if you lost at the second trial that your license would not be re-suspended. This is important for a lot of people because it affects their decision whether or not to even try to overturn their earlier conviction.
In summary, the decision in Commonwealth v. Hallinan has made it a lot easier and less risky for people to get their old DUI convictions or pleas overturned. If you have an older DUI conviction or plea that involved a breath test taken between June 1, 2011, and April 18th, 2019, and you think that you either wouldn’t have taken the plea or you wouldn’t have lost a trial as a result, you should speak to a lawyer about filing a motion for a new trial and getting that off your record.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to call or email.