In any court proceeding in which the state seeks to impose penalties on a person for an alleged violation of the law, the defendant has the right to obtain evidence used by the state in the case. The process of obtaining evidence from opposing parties is known as “discovery” in both civil and criminal proceedings. Under New Jersey law, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is considered a traffic offense rather than a criminal offense, but defendants are still entitled to discovery before a case goes to trial. New Jersey courts have held, however, that a defendant’s right to discovery in a DWI case is narrower than in a criminal case. The court reviewed these rights, and the state’s obligations, in February 2016 in State v. Conroy, when it ruled on a defendant’s challenge to the state’s evidence.
New Jersey law enforcement uses a device known as the Alcotest to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in breath samples obtained from DWI suspects. State law requires any law enforcement officer operating an Alcotest device to be certified in accordance with standards established by the New Jersey Attorney General. These standards, which are codified in Title 13, Chapter 51 of the New Jersey Administrative Code (NJAC), require a Breath Test Operator (BTO) to have an “operator’s certificate” that is valid at the time they administer a test to a suspect. The NJAC states that a “replica certificate” with the “facsimile signature of the Superintendent [of the State Police] and the Attorney General” is valid to establish a BTO’s credentials.
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in State v. Chun established that the state must produce certain documents in any case that relies on breath testing evidence obtained with an Alcotest device. Subsequent decisions from the Appellate Division have identified types of evidence that do not fall under the requirements of Chun. Two decisions, State v. Maricic from 2010 and State v. Carrero from 2012, held that discovery in DWI cases is more limited than in criminal proceedings.
Both Maricic and Carrero cited a 1990 Appellate Division ruling, State v. Ford, in which a DWI defendant requested about 100 discovery items but only received 11 from the state. The Ford court held that a DWI defendant cannot “forage for evidence without a reasonable basis” and that discovery is limited to “relevant material” based on Rule 3:13-3 of the New Jersey Rules of Court.
The defendant in Conroy challenged the sufficiency of the Alcotest documentation produced by the state in his DWI case. Specifically, he alleged that prosecutors did not produce valid credentials for two individuals: the operator who changed the “simulator solution” prior to the defendant’s breath test, and the instructor who checked the device’s calibration. Prosecutors had produced replica certificates for both individuals, which the defendant claimed was insufficient. The Appellate Division found that the documents produced were sufficient to establish the officers’ certification and to meet the requirements of Chun.
An arrest in New Jersey for alleged DWI can have a profound impact on your life, even if you are never convicted of an offense. A knowledgeable and experienced DWI attorney can advise you of your rights, advocate for your interests, and defend you against the state’s charges in court. We have committed 100% of our practice at Levow DWI Law to representing the rights of people charged with DWI. Contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a member of our team.
More Blog Posts:
New Jersey Appellate Court Rules on Question of Police Duties Under State v. Chun, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, February 15, 2016
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