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Alcotest Blood Alcohol Test Under Fire

Every state uses a breathalyzer machine to determine the level of blood alcohol of motorists suspected to be under the influence of alcohol. New Jersey is one of two states, the other being Alabama, that use a machine known as the alcotest machine manufactured by a company known as Drager. The scientific validity of the alcotest machine was challenged by the DWI defense bar and the case wound up before the New Jersey Supreme Court in the seminal case of State v. Chun.

After appointing a special master to investigate whether the alcotest machine was scientifically valid, the Court accepted the findings of the special master, a retired judge, that the machine with certain technical modifications was scientifically reliable. The Supreme Court’s opinion created a framework for admission of the test results.

Recently, it was learned that the New Jersey State Police were not fully complying with the Supreme Court’s directives concerning data bases which are supposed to be maintained in conjunction with the use of the alcotest machine. Whether the alcotest can continue to be used is currently being litigated. Meanwhile, Drager the manufacturer has revealed that it is only going to make the alcotest machine for three more years and it is phasing out its use.

Until the Supreme Court rules on the latest challenges to the alcotest machine, it will continue to be used and challenged. Its future use is uncertain at best.

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