In New Jersey, lawmakers have developed a three-year plan to discontinue use of Alcotest in drunk driving prevention, but a handful of DUI/DWI lawyers are calling for the immediate termination. In paperwork filed early in June, two state defense attorneys have asked the state Supreme Court to issue an end to Alcotest, on the grounds that New Jersey has thus far been unwilling to make court-ordered revisions and other software advances to the technology.
Alcotest is a device designed to test the levels of a person’s intoxication by measuring alcohol levels on the person’s breath in order to discern the blood alcohol concentration. In New Jersey, law enforcement officials use Alcotest under a contract made with the manufacturer that prohibits the officers from using the devices for “reverse engineering” testing. Along with the devices, the state established an electronic public access service. The Alcotest Inquiry is a database that contains the information collected by the devices, and users have access to all results of breath alcohol tests and instrument certification tests. The state Supreme Court originally approved the use of the devices, based on tests that demonstrated the reliability of the measuring process.
But now, a few drunk driving attorneys in New Jersey want the Supreme Court to revoke their approval, claiming that the Alcotest Inquiry is an incomplete database, and contained several corruptions. In their argument, the lawyers list nine software updates that have not been made to the program. These updates are required under State v. Chun 194 N.J. 54, the 2008 state Supreme Court decision that originally labeled Alcotest as a scientifically reliable system. Because the state’s law enforcement officials have not been keeping up with the technological advances to the program as required by law, DUI/DWI lawyers say that the data collected can no longer be scientifically verified as accurate.
One of the software updates that attorneys identified would correct a malfunction that caused the device to routinely give reduced chemical reactions over time, which led to under-reported amounts of alcohol in a person’s body. Another update would reduce the minimum breath sample required for women over 60 to 1.2 liters, overriding the current default volume of 1.5 liters. The default does not account for the smaller lung capacities of women over 60. The lawyers also criticized the state’s practice of charging residents to gain access to the Alcotest website.
Although Alcotest is scheduled to disappear from the New Jersey drunk driving procedure within the next three years, attorneys want the information collected from the devices to be considered invalid at a DUI traffic stop. If the outdated software cannot provide accurate information, attorneys argue that a blood alcohol level determined with data collected by an Alcotest should be excluded in a DUI/DWI conviction, and this exclusion should begin immediately, rather than over the proposed course of the next few years.
The experienced drunk driving attorneys at New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, P.A., represent anyone who has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, especially those who were subject to testing with Alcotest devices at the time of their arrest.