Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that prosecutors in drunk driving cases do not have to call a technician to testify that the breathalyzer machine used by police worked properly at the time of the test.
The defendant in Commonwealth v. Zeininger, convicted of drunk driving in Greenfield, argued that the annual certification of the machine presented at trial in documentary form constituted “testimony” from a witness that the defendant should have been able to cross-examine at trial. The defendant’s attorney argued that admission of the certificates without the testimony of the technician who signed them denied the defendant her right of confrontation under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Court disagreed, stating that the certificates are “business records,” since the certification of breathalyzers are made “for the administration of an entity’s affairs and not for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact at trial.” Because of the generalized nature of the certificates and their primary purpose to ensure the “accuracy and standardization of all breathalyzer testing equipment,” the Court concluded the certifications are non-testimonial and admissible without the technician’s testimony.
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