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.
The 7110 uses two methods of analysis, infrared and electrochemical, to extrapolate an individual’s BAC based on their breath sample. It requires careful maintenance and calibration in order to provide accurate results. The Chun decision requires police to keep records of all maintenance and calibration, which the state must provide as evidence in any DWI case.
How Is the Alcotest 9510 Different from the Alcotest 7110?
The Alcotest 9510 is similar in some ways to the 7110. For example, it also uses infrared and electrochemical analysis. It has new features that distinguish it from the 7110:
– It is portable, so it does not have to remain at the police station.
– It uses a solution known as “ethanol dry gas” to perform chemical testing.
– It has features like touchscreens, internet connectivity, and the ability to scan driver’s licenses.
What Are the Guidelines for the Alcotest 9510?
There seems to be disagreement about the guidelines for using the Alcotest 9510, as well as whether the device has the state supreme court’s blessing. For the time being, police officers must obtain separate certifications for the 7110 and the 9510.
The Attorney General has expressed doubt about whether the 9510 has an official finding of “scientific reliability,” similar to Chun’s finding about the 7110. At the same time, state regulations have identified the 9510 as an approved device for breath testing since 2018.
When Will New Jersey Police Start Using the Alcotest 9510?
The state has chosen several townships as test sites for the Alcotest 9510. Training on the use of the device began in May 2022.
DWI lawyer Evan Levow advocates for people in New Jersey who are facing charges of alleged DWI in municipal court. Please contact us today online or at (877) 593-1717 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can help you.