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Relief for DWI charges could follow Breathalyzer scandal

New Jersey police officers rely heavily on Breathalyzer test results when making drunk driving arrests. Breathalyzers are typically thought of as accurate testing devices that produce infallible results, but this is far from the truth. As many as 20,000 drivers facing DWI charges could soon face just relief after a Breathalyzer scandal rocked the state.

In Sept. 2016, a State Police Alcohol Drug Testing Unit coordinator was criminally charged for falsifying records. According to authorities, the police sergeant deliberately falsified records related to recalibrating three Alcotest brand Breathalyzers. At least two of those Breathalyzers were later used for justifying DWI charges.

Authorities claim that the sergeant did not perform the necessary temperature checks while he recalibrated the three devices in question. Temperature checks are a required part of the procedure when calibrating the Alcotest Breathalyzers, which was created by the chief forensic scientist for New Jersey State Police. The sergeant in question also allegedly falsified records to indicate that he had carried out this important step.

Improperly calibrated Breathalyzer tests can give unreliable results, possibly indicating that a driver is intoxicated when he or she is well under the legal .08 limit. Because of this, prosecutors alerted over 4,500 people who have been accused of driving drunk between 2008 and 2016, alerting them to the possibility of criminal relief. The estimated number of individuals impacted by the scandal is believed to be much higher than that.

Whether through a Breathalyzer or blood draw, many DWI charges hinge upon a person's recorded blood alcohol content. However, as the recent Breathalyzer calibration scandal demonstrates, these results are not necessarily reliable. New Jersey defendants who are concerned that their results were inaccurate should be sure to consider their charges and all related evidence alongside their respective counsel, as this is typically the first step to determining how to proceed in order to achieve the best possible outcome.

Source: Toms River, NJ Patch, "As Many As 20K New Jersey DWI Cases Could Get Thrown Out, Authorities Say", Tom Davis, Oct. 20, 2017

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