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Drunk Driving: Inaccuracies with the NJ Alcotest Breathalyzer Readings

In New Jersey, the breath test used to detect a person’s blood alcohol level is conducted via the Dräger Alcotest® 7110 Breathalyzer. Simply operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or above is a violation of the law, whether you show signs of physical impairment or not. 

The New Jersey Supreme Court has established strict requirements for how to maintain the breath testing equipment as well as the manner in which a breath test is administered in order to have the level of confidence in the readings to allow them to be admissible. When those protocols are not complied with, the confidence in the accuracy of the readings is eroded.

Challenging the Results of the Alcotest

Though the Alcotest was deemed reliable by the New Jersey Supreme Court, inaccuracies with the Breathalyzer could occur due to human error. Certain conditions must be met in order for the accuracy the BAC reading to be preserved. Some examples include:

  • The calibration of the Alcotest
  • The cleanliness and maintenance of the device
  • The timeliness of the test’s administration
  • The training received by the test’s administrator

Overall, the Alcotest is a sensitive machine that must be handled properly. If you have any concerns regarding the administration of your Breathalyzer test, you need to contact one of our top New Jersey DWI attorneys. Three lawyers on our DUI team have been trained in the Dräger Alcotest, with John Dell’Aquilo having received the same certification that the State Police Coordinators receive.

Whether you refused the Breathalyzer or you simply believe your results were inaccurate, contact our firm today. Please call 1-877-HELMER1 or submit your case online. We’re available 7 days a week.

Over 20,000 New Jersey Convictions May Now Be Invalid

More than 20,000 DWI convictions in New Jersey may now be null and void due to human error.  On November 13, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided State v. Eileen Cassidy. This case arose out of the allegation that a State Police Breath Test Coordinator failed to use a thermometer traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) during the calibration process for Alcotest machines. This means that false blood alcohol readings may have led to thousands of improper guilty verdicts and conviction.  Criminal charges against the Breath Test Coordinator, Sergeant Marc Dennis, are pending.

After a long evidentiary hearing before a Special Master, the Supreme Court made several significant rulings in this case.

The Court held that proper and complete protocols must be adhered to when the State calibrates the Draeger Alcotest 7110 MK-3 breath testing machine.  During that procedure, NIST-traceable thermometers also must be used to ensure reliably in breath test results, otherwise the results are inadmissible. Because the Breath Test Coordinator did not properly perform this step, tests performed on machines he was responsible for calibrating, the State cannot prove that the machine was operating properly.

Impact of Court Decision on New Jersey DWI Convictions

The State must notify defendants affected by machines not calibrated with a NIST-traceable thermometer. The individuals had either pleaded guilty to drinking and driving or had a DWI hearing. Accordingly, these victims may have faced consequences such as jail sentences, fines, license suspensions and other penalties.

Additionally, affected individuals may still appeal their prior conviction, as the typical five year statute of limitations has been relaxed for these victims.

This NJ court decision calls into question more than 20,000 drunk driving convictions between 2008 and 2015.  Even after the State became aware of this misconduct, it failed to notify affected victims. Now, after being ordered by the Supreme Court to do so, the State has begun to contact the individuals.  Unfortunately, in those notifications, the State continues to downplay the significance of this decision in the letters it has sent to those victims.

Why You Need to Hire a DWI Attorney

A DWI conviction in New Jersey will never go away.  Long after the convicted person has ”paid their debt” the fallout continues.  A DWI is not expungable and remains on a person’s driving record for the rest of their lives.  In addition to driving suspensions, fines, surcharges and incarceration, there are far reaching collateral consequences which can impact employment, family and even ability for travel abroad for the rest of their lives. 

This recent court decision makes it possible to appeal a prior DWI Conviction. This is a limited opportunity which may never come around again. If you were a victim of false Alcotest results from 2008 to 2015, you may be able to have you conviction cleared from your record. Accordingly, you would be considered a first time offender should another arrest occur, thus minimizing potential legal consequences.

Whether or not you know if you are affected by this recent NJ court decision and the actions of Sgt. Dennis, contact our DWI attorneys today.

To speak with an attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. about your case, please call 1-877-HELMER1 or submit your case online. You can contact us 24/7, and if we are not available immediately we will respond as soon as possible.

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