NJ DUI DWI Breath-test device will be analyzed

NJ DUI DWI Breath-test device will be analyzed

The New Jersey high court ordered testing after the machine's reliability was doubted.

By Troy Graham
Inquirer Staff Writer

The New Jersey Supreme Court yesterday ordered the manufacturer of an alcohol breath-testing machine to turn over the device's computer code for analysis by defense attorneys challenging its  reliability.

The device, called the Alcotest, is used in 17 of the state's 21 counties to test the  blood-alcohol level of drivers. Its reliability has been questioned in court since the first Alcotest devices were used in Camden County several years ago.

In January 2006, the Supreme Court ordered sentencings in most drunken-driving cases to be delayed until the matter was sorted out. Defense attorneys said a final ruling from the Supreme Court on Alcotest's reliability could be at least six months away, and as many as 20,000 to 30,000 cases could be awaiting resolution by then.

Defense attorneys and the Alcotest manufacturer, Draeger Safety Diagnostics Inc., also could not agree on a firm to examine the source code. So, the high court ordered that each hire its own experts. Reports from each side's experts are due in August.

The defense attorneys had expressed some reservations about paying for an expert analysis, saying the burden of proving Alcotest's reliability should rest with the state. But  Evan Levow, one of the  New Jersey DWI attorneys challenging Alcotest, said yesterday that they would hire a company to do the analysis.