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Breath tests in DUI cases question at New Jersey Supreme Court

There have long been questions concerning the accuracy of breath tests used by New Jersey prosecutors and law enforcement officers when charging individuals with alleged DUI infractions. Per orders of the New Jersey Supreme court, modifications were supposed to have been made as to the equipment to be used and the way breathalyzer tests were to be conducted.

However, this matter is once again being heard in the state's highest court. Criminal, DUI and DWI defense attorneys maintain that changes need to be made and that the current equipment such as the Alcotest used remains unreliable. The state of New Jersey has responded that a new version with software modifications has not been rolled out, and that new tests are being considered to replace the old ones.

Unfortunately, there is no right to refusal of a breath test in New Jersey. Just like a conviction, a refusal to submit to a breath test can result in criminal penalties as well.

In must be emphasized that the results of the breath tests can still be challenged in court, and attorneys have the right to question any evidence presented that proves not to be relevant or reliable. However, determining what evidence can and cannot be used in a DUI case has become increasingly more difficult over time.

There are a number of assumptions made when it comes to breathalyzer tests that are generally considered faulty by attorneys experienced in trying these matters. For example, for many types of breathalyzer tests to be used across the board and still be considered reliable we would have to assume that most individuals undergoing the tests have the same absorption rate of alcohol. Also, law enforcement authorities have to be able to demonstrate that the correct procedures were implemented before a conviction for DUI can be considered.

We will have to see if the New Jersey Supreme Court does provide further guidance regarding the conducting of breath tests.

Source: Courier-Post, "DUI tests under scrutiny in N.J. high court," Sep. 10, 2013

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