You Have Options If You Had the Alcotest Administered in New Jersey
Serving Drivers in Rahway, Clark, Roselle, Roselle Park, Garwood, Elizabeth, Cranford, Edison, and throughout Union County, Essex County, and northern Middlesex County.
If you have had the Alcotest administered to you recently in New Jersey, or if you had it administered between 2008 and 2016, there are some court rulings you need to know about.
Alcotest is the device now used for breath testing by New Jersey police during investigations of suspected driving while intoxicated (DWI). It replaced the former Breathalyzer tool in 2008. Alcotest is designed to measure a person’s blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC) utilizing a two-step procedure. First police take a breath sample. It must be followed by a two-minute lockout period, then the second sample taken. The lockout period is to prevent the first sample from contaminating the second sample.
Since its inception in 2008, the Alcotest has led to numerous legal cases challenging its validity and accuracy. Attorneys for defendants have argued that the Alcotest software is out-of-date and deficient. Other cases have claimed that the machines fail to do the two-minute lockout between samples, thus allowing for cross-contamination and inaccuracy. In some cases, attorneys have argued that the procedures before, during, and after administration of the Alcotest violated the defendant’s rights.
The Alcotest remains the de facto standard for proving DWI claims.
However, a positive Alcotest reading does not mean that you are without options. There may be several defenses available depending on the circumstances of your traffic stop, arrest, and breath testing. It is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible to preserve your rights and develop a strong defense strategy.
The Alcotest has come under intense scrutiny several times in New Jersey court cases. There are procedures established that dictate how the Alcotest should be administered, including the police officer’s observation of the accused prior to administering the test. Eating or drinking prior to the test may unfairly impact the test results.
The police are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the results produced by the device by performing regular device maintenance and specific calibration procedures. They must document that they’ve done the maintenance and procedures. Prosecutors seeking to prove DWI with BAC evidence must produce the most recent maintenance report predating the defendant’s use of the device. If they don’t, the Alcotest results won’t be admissible in court.
In New Jersey, the DWI statute allows prosecutors to prove that a defendant was impaired if they have evidence that the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 percent or higher. At that level, there is a presumption of intoxication.
Allegations against a New Jersey State Police sergeant in 2016
In 2016, there were allegations that a New Jersey State Police sergeant, who was in charge of maintaining Alcotest devices in five New Jersey counties, did not perform these duties. The allegations threw more than 20,000 DWI cases into question. In 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court appointed a four-judge panel to review those cases and grant post-conviction relief (PCR) when appropriate.
False Alcotest Readings and Reports
In 2016 an indictment against the sergeant accused him of filing false Alcotest maintenance reports for devices in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union Counties. Investigators found that 20,667 DWI cases between 2008 and 2016 relied on devices with potentially false documentation.
The state supreme court appointed a special master to review the matter. The special master found that the falsified records called a substantial number of DWI cases into question. She issued an order in November 2017 staying all cases involving potentially-affected Alcotest machines. The state supreme court affirmed this report in a 2018 ruling.
The court convened a four-judge panel in 2019 to review all the cases affected by this ruling. The court gave the panel statewide jurisdiction to resolve cases affected by the 2018 ruling.
The Somerset County Prosecutor’s office then sent letters out in 2019 advising people affected by that ruling of their right to file for PCR, in accordance with New Jersey Court Rule 7:10-2. Defendants have several grounds on which to avail themselves of PCR, including denial in the conviction proceedings of the defendant’s constitutional rights.
If you are now facing charges of alleged DWI in a New Jersey municipal court, or if you faced charges between 2008 and 2016 in any of these five counties— Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union—please call Attorney Edward Cooper. Our lawyers are available to answer your questions and address your concerns. Again, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible to preserve your rights and develop a strong defense strategy.
Linden NJ DWI Attorney Helps You Choose the Proper Path
At Edward Cooper Law Firm, we take pride in successfully representing clients across New Jersey, including towns like Rahway, Clark, Roselle, Roselle Park, Garwood, Elizabeth, Cranford, Edison, and throughout Union County, Essex County, and northern Middlesex County.
Whether you have been accused of DWI recently, or in those five counties between 2008 and 2016, do not let these allegations of wrongdoing change your life.