"An official at the state police laboratory that oversees alcohol breath-testing equipment vouched Thursday for the accuracy of the devices, telling a judge that components undergo rigorous tests before they're sent into the field. Melissa O'Meara, technical leader of the state Office of Alcohol Testing, testified Thursday in a hearing focused on the scientific reliability of the state's breath-testing machines. O'Meara described the meticulous work done to ensure the devices function properly, outlining a two- to four-hour certification process conducted annually on each piece of equipment.
"Some of these steps are performed in triplicate," she said, "and all of these steps are reviewed technically by another chemist." County prosecutors continued to build their case Thursday that drunken driving evidence gathered by police around the state is reliable as a hearing focused on the breath-testing machines neared the close of its second week. Initiated in 2015, the consolidated challenge against the Alcotest 9510 has now stalled several thousand drunken driving cases in Massachusetts. A team of lawyers representing the defendants argues the source code of the machines fails to meet accepted industry standards, potentially skewing the results of blood alcohol tests. Defense lawyers have also challenged the methods used by police to collect samples during OUI breath tests, presenting expert witnesses this week who testified that several variables can skew the results, such as fluctuations in how hard and how long suspected drunk drivers blow into the machines. The hearing, which opened Jan. 17 in Concord District Court, has also included testimony from two officials from Draeger Safety Diagnostics, the German company that manufactures the breath- testing equipment used in Massachusetts, as well as a government consultant who personally certified the Alcotest 9510 for use around the country on behalf of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A team of prosecutors from Middlesex, Suffolk, Plymouth and Bristol counties is defending the reliability of the machines on behalf of the state.
Closing arguments in the hearing are expected Feb. 3.