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Reasonable doubt and Massachusetts blood alcohol tests

Although taking a chemical test to determine blood alcohol content may seem like a bad idea for someone in Massachusetts who has had a few drinks, refusing could lead to more trouble. Regardless of BAC levels, though, drivers have rights. According to the instructions the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides to jurors, one of those is the need for proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was operating the vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.

Often, the prosecutor provides the results of a blood test as proof. However, there are circumstances that would cast doubt on the validity of this evidence. For example, the test has to be given within a reasonable time frame of the alleged vehicle operation. Although a judge or jury has some discretion, a test administered more than three hours after the fact may not be considered valid. 

There is also room for error in the administration of the test. Certain procedures must be followed in preparation, and any devices used must be in good working order and without potential for contamination. Naturally, the test must be given properly by someone who is certified to administer it.

Massachusetts statutes identify the regulations for the training and certification required to become a blood test analyst. The educational program must be approved by the Deputy Director of the Forensic Chemistry Section of the Massachusetts Department of State Police Crime Laboratory and implemented by the Office of Alcohol Testing. People who complete the training receive a three-year certification provided by a forensic scientist from the department who is a certified BTA. A BTA who does not comply with the laboratory's written blood alcohol analysis protocols may have his or her certification suspended or revoked.

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