New Jersey Supreme Court Reverses DWI Conviction Due to Insufficient Alcotest Documentation

Kaedesis [Public domain, CC0 1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en)], via PixabayWhen prosecutors in New Jersey pursue a case of alleged driving while intoxicated (DWI), they frequently rely on evidence of a defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) obtained through breath or blood testing. Anyone with a BAC of 0.08 percent or above is presumed to be impaired for the purpose of a DWI case. Police in this state typically use a device known as an Alcotest to collect and test breath samples from DWI suspects. We were counsel in a case that went before the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2008, State v. Chun, which established multiple guidelines that the state must follow in order to use BAC evidence obtained with an Alcotest device. The state Supreme Court recently reversed a DWI conviction in another case, State v. Kuropchak, based on improper documentation regarding the Alcotest used by police.

Police in New Jersey currently use the Draeger Alcotest® 7110 MKIII-C. The DWI suspect blows into a tube, and the device analyzes the breath sample to estimate the person’s BAC. It bases its estimate on a “2,100 to 1 blood/breath alcohol ratio,” meaning that its programming assumes that 2,100 parts of breath contain the same amount of alcohol as one part of blood. This assumption was one of the many features of the Alcotest that were challenged in Chun.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Chun that the Alcotest is generally acceptable by scientific standards, but it imposed a variety of conditions on police using the device, and on prosecutors seeking to admit BAC evidence obtained with the device. The state must produce two documents relating to the calibration and maintenance of the device. It must produce a Certificate of Analysis showing that the device has the proper “simulator solution,” a solution typically designed to return a 0.10 percent result to use as a comparison to the breath sample. The state must also produce the most recent report documenting maintenance of the device, known as the “Calibrating Unit New Standard Solution Report.”

The municipal court in Garfield, New Jersey convicted the defendant in Kuropchak of DWI based on both officer testimony regarding her behavior and Alcotest results showing a 0.10 percent BAC. The defendant appealed, claiming that the municipal court’s admission of written reports prepared by the arresting officer violated the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that prosecutors failed to produce foundational documents required by Chun for the BAC evidence. The Appellate Division did not rule on the Chun issue, but it held that the written reports did not violate the Confrontation Clause.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the municipal court erred by admitting the BAC results from the Alcotest, since prosecutors had not produced the Certificate of Analysis or the most recent Calibrating Unit New Standard Solution Report, as required by Chun. The court therefore reversed the lower court rulings and remanded the case for a new trial.

If you are facing alleged DWI charges in New Jersey, a skilled and experienced DWI attorney can help you understand your rights and prepare the best possible defense based on the facts of your particular case. We have committed 100% of our law firm’s resources at Levow DWI Law to advocating for the rights of DWI defendants in New Jersey. Contact us online or at (877) 593-1717 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Crime Lab Employees Allege Problems with Breath-Testing Machines Used in DWI Cases, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, October 16, 2015

New Jersey Courts Hold that Chun’s Twenty-Minute Waiting Period in DWI Cases May Not Be Used for Delay, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 28, 2015

New Jersey Appellate Court Applies Alcotest Rules Established in State v. Chun, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, June 17, 2015

Photo credit: Kaedesis [Public domain, CC0 1.0], via Pixabay.