Newark, NJ- After several years of litigation, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided last week that the state can continue to use the Alcotest, equipment used to measure a driver’s blood alcohol level, stating it is “scientifically reliable,” despite numerous software flaws which have remained uncorrected for five years.
New Jersey replaced the Breathalyzer with Alcotest a decade ago, but twenty drivers charged with DWI challenged the use of the new test based on technical flaws. They successfully had the Alcotest suspended in 2006. In 2008, however,the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the Alcotest was “scientifically reliable” and ordered the state to make changes to the software which they never accomplished.
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs continued to challenge the use of the Alcotest, claiming there are at least nine software flaws in the memory of the machine that have not been corrected since the high court’s 2008 decision, the New Jersey Star Ledger reported. The attorneys also argued that women over 60 could be unfairly convicted of DWI because they lack the lung capacity to blow the 1.5 liters of air necessary to get accurate test results.
In a 6-0 vote, the justices ruled the changes to the software of the Alcotest were not necessary, and the results from the test are admissible in court. Justice Helen Hoens wrote in the court’s decision that the state attempted to make the necessary changes to the Alcotest, but due to “unanticipated but unavoidable” technical difficulties the state’s ability to comply with their earlier ruling was been hindered.
One of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, Matthew Reisig explained that by not requiring the software changes the court undermined their argument. Reisig said the 2008 court decision “was predicated upon the state and the manufacturer implementing the nine substantive software changes — and those changes were not made,” according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
While the court will continue to allow the use if the Alcotest in spite of the technical flaws they did make concessions for women over 60. In their decision, the court said that these women can be convicted of refusing a blood alcohol test if they are unable to produce the amount of air necessary to get a result with the Alcotest.
The state has a new “error-free” Alcotest which they plan to roll-out in late 2016, but it will take time to sync up the new equipment with their database.
DWI defense attorneys say it is crucial they are able to easily access the state’s Alcotest database, but the software flaws have made that task very difficult and has affected their ability to access information necessary to their client’s defense.
There is a lot on the line when an individual is charged with a DWI. If convicted they accused could face jail time, suspension of their driver’s license and costly fines and penalties. It is critical that the evidence against them is accurate otherwise they face the prospect of being wrongfully convicted. A Newark DWI defense attorney will question the accuracy of any of the prosecution’s evidence against you and work to prevent your conviction.