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Thousands of New Jersey DWI convictions could be overturned

No one who is arrested for driving while intoxicated in New Jersey should just accept the results of roadside sobriety tests. There are any number of things that can go wrong with the way "breathalyzer" type tests called Alcotests are administered and with the calibration of the device.

The arrest of a New Jersey officer this fall has put over 20,000 DWI cases into question. The sergeant, who worked as a coordinator for the New Jersey State Police Alcohol Drug Testing Unit, was accused by a superior of failing to re-calibrate three breath-testing devices used by local New Jersey police departments, as legally required, even though he signed a certification that he had performed the recalibrations.

Although the officer's attorney says his client is not guilty, thousands of people convicted of DWIs in which the officer was involved are challenging their convictions - - going back seven years. As one attorney notes, "Without proper calibration, the science behind the device's accuracy falls apart."

Although the charges against the officer involve just two DWI cases, the allegations bring into question any test that he was involved with. A lawsuit has been filed seeking damages for thousands of people who may have been wrongfully convicted based on the evidence provided by machines that he calibrated. Many of them may be able to have their convictions overturned.

This isn't the only problem that New Jersey law enforcement has faced regarding the processing of test results. A State Police lab is being investigated after allegations that a technician there falsified marijuana test results. That case could potentially overturn some 15,000 or more convictions.

One of the primary responsibilities of New Jersey criminal defense attorneys in DWI cases is to challenge the evidence. That evidence is not always as clear-cut and infallible as law enforcement and prosecutors would like it to be.

Source: NJ.com, "20K DWI cases up in the air after officer accused of records tampering. What's next?," S.P. Sullivan, Nov. 21, 2016

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