Big Changes Potentially on the Horizon for Testing Drunk Drivers in New Jersey
If you are pulled over in New Jersey and the police officer believes you are under the influence of alcohol, you will be expected to take a breathalyzer test to determine if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over .07% which is the legal limit. For more than a decade, the official test used by police officers across the state has been the breathalyzer machine (you blow into a tube and it measures blood alcohol content in your blood) known as the Alcotest 7110 MK-IIIC.
A recent class action lawsuit, just filed in October, is calling the official machines into question, and some reports suggest that the state may be ready to get rid of the Alcotest 7110 MK-IIIC altogether. Officials have yet to select a replacement for the devices, previously manufactured by Draeger Safety, but until an official selection is made, the state will need to continue to adhere to all standards and requirements governing the device.
Maintenance Requirements for the Alcotest 7110 MK-IIIC
In 2008, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued State v. Chun, a case upholding the use of this breathalyzer machine as scientifically reliable. Chun also set forth legal conditions for the state to follow before Alcotest results could be considered legally valid and admissible in evidence. First, a BAC test must specifically be performed on a Alcotest 7110 MK-IIIC machine, which is the only device that has been approved by the Attorney General for legally measuring BAC evidence. Additionally, the attorney general must approve all persons who perform these tests who are certified to give the test and there are certain rules that must be followed for training testers and certifying, maintaining, and inspecting breathalyzer devices. The most important regulations provide instructions on how the Alcotest must be calibrated every six months in a standard way to ensure scientific accuracy.
Violations of Chun and the Class Action Lawsuit
The new class action lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of an Ocean County resident, in the New Jersey federal District Court, claims that potentially thousands of breathalyzer test results used to convict New Jersey residents of drunk driving must be thrown out, with the accompanying cases remanded, reversed, or overturned.
The case specifically argues that Alcotest results taken on machines used by police officers could not be trusted because the state Attorney General’s Office charged Sgt. Marc Dennis with records tampering. As a coordinator for the New Jersey State Police’s Alcohol Drug Testing Unit, Sgt. Dennis was responsible for following the requirements of Chun in calibrating Alcotest machines and certifying their accuracy. The case alleges that Sgt. Dennis falsely certified that he had properly followed all the required steps in calibrating at least three machines used to provide BAC evidence in more than 20,600 cases in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset and Union counties.
If calibration records were truly fabricated or made up then the accuracy of the evidence used to convict drivers in DUI/DWI trials across the state can no longer be relied upon, and the convictions or guilty pleas made based on those test results will be legally called into question, especially if a reading was close to the legal limit of .07% BAC.
How an Attorney Can Help if You Are Charged with a DWI
If you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, and the evidence against you includes a breathalyzer reading, an attorney can help you provide a proper defense in your case by ensuring that test results were scientifically accurate and prepared in accordance with Chun and other state regulations. As the recent lawsuit demonstrates, BAC readings are not always perfect, so you should always consult an experienced DWI lawyer if you are pulled over and charged with drunk driving.
New Jersey Attorney Tom Chaves Believes All Drivers are Entitled to a Strong Defense
Drunk driving laws can be very confusing. An experienced attorney, who knows the ins and outs of DWIs, will be able to sit down with you, review your case, and explain your specific situation. If your case goes to court, an experienced lawyer will also be able to help defend you or have the charges against you dismissed completely. For a free consultation, call us at 908-256-3039 or contact us online today. We represent individuals with criminal charges in Somerset County, Hunterdon County, Middlesex County and Union County.