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A New Jersey State Police sergeant has been charged with multiple counts of tampering with records, alleged to have deliberately skipped a required step in re-calibrating three breathalyzer devices before administering the tests. According to the State’s Division of Criminal Justice, this could open up more than 20,000 DWI cases to being challenged in court. NJ DWI lawyer Andres Mejer discusses the recent developments below.
How Important Is Calibration of Breath-Testing Devices in a DWI Case?
Breath-testing devices such as Alcotest, which is New Jersey’s breath testing machine, are used by law enforcement officers to test the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels in individuals suspected of driving under the influence.
Because the accuracy of such alcohol breath tests is dependent on proper maintenance and calibration of the device being used, failure to properly calibrate the device can result in inaccurate results and raise questions about the admissibility of evidence in New Jersey DWI cases. Your NJ DWI lawyer could challenge or overturn the charges against you based on the claim of unreliable chemical test results.
Procedure Must Be Followed for Breath Results to Be Admissible in Court
Sgt. Marc Dennis is facing several charges, including third degree tampering with public records and fourth degree falsifying or tampering with records. According to reports, he falsely certified to performing temperature checks when he was recalibrating the Alcotest devices. Dennis was a coordinator in the New Jersey State Police Alcohol and Drug Testing Unit.
As any NJ DWI lawyer knows, the temperature check is required as part of the procedure developed by the chief forensic scientist in the State Police — a procedure made in compliance with a state Supreme Court decision related to the admissibility of DWI test results in court.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that in order for breath test results to be admissible scientific evidence in DWI cases:
- the device must be in working order;
- the device must be inspected according to procedure;
- the most recent calibration reports and credentials of the coordinator who performed the test must be entered into evidence along with the test results.
Sgt. Dennis May Have Caused Inaccurate Breath Tests Throughout New Jersey
The division director is claiming that these new developments do not mean that State Police test results are not scientifically credible. However, Sgt. Dennis was reportedly responsible for calibrating Alcotest devices throughout several New Jersey counties over the past 7 years. The counties involved include:
- Monmouth County
- Somerset County
- Middlesex County
- Union County
- Ocean County
What This Could Mean for New Jersey DWI Cases
State authorities have identified 20,667 individual cases in which Sgt. Dennis handled the breath-testing devices involved in the arrests. The accusation could potentially lead to a web of litigation and the increase in need for a NJ DWI lawyer; the State is expecting that many of these cases will be challenged and re-opened in court.
In fact, a federal class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of individuals who were convicted of DWI based on chemical test results from devices that were maintained by Sgt. Dennis. Because of the potential litigation, the State is requesting that the Supreme Court issue a Notice to the Bar to appoint a Special Master to oversee the process.
This comes on the heels of another controversy regarding a State Police lab technician who was accused of falsifying test results in a marijuana case, which opened up close to 15,000 drug convictions throughout New Jersey.
Contact a Skilled NJ DWI Lawyer Today
If you were previously arrested for DWI in New Jersey, you could be one of the individuals who was administered a breath test on a device that wasn’t properly calibrated. With the right representation, your DWI case could be challenged or even overturned in court. NJ DWI lawyer Andres Mejer has the knowledge and experience to help you navigate the New Jersey criminal law system. Call our offices today at 888-582-6146 for a free consultation.