Police officers in New Jersey use a device known as the Alcotest to determine a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) in cases of suspected driving while intoxicated (DWI). The model currently in use throughout the state, the Alcotest 7110 MKIII-C, is subject to numerous restrictions established by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2008. The New Jersey Attorney General recently announced plans to test a newer model, the Alcotest 9510, in some areas of the state. While the Alcotest 9510 has features that appear more “high-tech” than the 7110, its scientific reliability is far from established. The 7110’s reliability is still questionable in many cases, so switching to a new device is sure to be contentious.
What Is the Alcotest?
“Alcotest” is a brand name that belongs to Dräger, a company that manufactures a variety of devices used in healthcare, law enforcement, and other areas. Alcotest products include handheld devices, similar to a Breathalyzer, that provide fast BAC readings from breath samples, and larger breath-testing devices like the Alcotest 7110 that are not portable.
Police bring DWI suspects to the police station for testing by an officer who is certified to operate the Alcotest 7110. The 2008 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, State v. Chun, established procedures that police must follow in order to ensure the best chance for accurate results. For example, police must observe the suspect for twenty minutes before collecting a breath sample. During that time, the suspect must not place anything in their mouth that might interfere with the test. If anything enters the person’s mouth, even by burping, the twenty-minute clock must restart.