the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Trenton NJ, good news for those convicted in DWI cases in New Jersey . According to NJ Advance Media Prosecutors are notifying more than 20,000 people charged with drunken driving that their cases are under review after a State Police sergeant who oversaw breath-testing devices was accused of falsifying records .
Multi-County prosecutors have been sending letters to people charged with driving while intoxicated between 2008 and 2016 informing them a specially appointed judge would weigh “whether you are entitled to relief” based on the accusations against the sergeant. These letters were sent in recent weeks to DWI defendants in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union counties.
NJ Advance Media also reported that Prosecutors and defense attorneys claim the number of cases that could be thrown out as a result of the criminal inquiry is likely low. But the issue, which came amid a similar probe of the State Police drug lab, created a morass of legal challenges which could take years to sort out.
New Jersey prosecutors often rely on evidence of a defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to prove guilt in driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases. Police officers typically determine a person’s BAC by testing a breath sample. All police departments in this state use a device known as the Alcotest for this purpose. The Alcotest is prone to errors, and it requires continual maintenance.
The Alcohol Drug Testing Unit (ADTU) of the New Jersey State Police is responsible for inspecting Alcotest devices throughout the state, performing calibrations and recalibrations, and maintaining the required documentation certifying that each device is in proper working order.
State Police Sgt. Marc Dennis, a coordinator in the State Police Alcohol Drug Testing Unit, was accused last year of lying on official documents about completing a legally required step in re-calibrating the machines, known as Alcotest devices, which are used to check the blood-alcohol level of accused drunken drivers.
Dennis, denies the charges against him, was allegedly observed skipping the step in calibrating just three machines. But the criminal accusations raised a cloud of doubt over every device touched by the trooper, who performed routine checks on devices used by local police across five counties.
“Sergeant Dennis’ alleged false swearing and improper calibrations of these three instruments may call into question all of the calibrations performed by Sergeant Dennis over the course of his career as a coordinator,” said one letter, a copy of which was obtained by NJ Advance Media.