NJ State Trooper Scandal Jeopardizes DWI Cases
Mountainside, NJ – On November 13, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the State Police’s failure to properly calibrate breath-testing machines in DWI cases means 20,667 cases must be retried or dismissed.
The court’s ruling ended the legal battle over the requirements for the machines that determine whether a driver’s blood alcohol content is above the legal limit. The court ordered the State to notify all defendants who may have been affected by the decision, so they may take appropriate action. How do you know if your case is affected, and if so, will it be dismissed?
How was this scandal discovered in the first place?
New Jersey police use a machine called the Alcotest to obtain breath samples from drivers suspected of DWI. The Alcotest machine analyzes breath samples, producing blood alcohol concentration readings to determine whether a driver’s blood alcohol content is over the legal limit.
In order for the breath readings to be admissible in court, all machines must be “calibrated” to ensure the results are reliable. Sgt. Mark Dennis was the State Trooper who calibrated machines for police. Sgt. Dennis was later criminally charged with falsifying the calibration certificates. When Sgt. Dennis was charged, the Attorney General discovered 20,667 people were charged with DWIs from machines calibrated by Dennis. While the charges against Sgt. Dennis are still pending, the accuracy of the machines was called into question.
Where are the cases that may be impacted?
Sgt. Dennis calibrated the Alcotest machines for the State Police from 2008, until he was indicted in 2016. He was in charge of calibrating the machines in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union counties. All municipal courts located in these counties are impacted by the ruling.
What exactly did the court decide?
The court ruled that the breath test results for the 20,667 cases are inadmissible. This means that the readings cannot be used in DWI prosecutions. The court also ordered the State notify all defendants affected by this decision so they can take action.
What should I do if my case is affected?
Cases pending when Sgt. Dennis was charged were put on hold until after the court decided this issue. Now that the court has ruled, breath test readings are inadmissible on machines calibrated by Sgt. Dennis. These readings cannot be used to show you were over the legal limit.
If your case is affected, but were already convicted, you can still seek relief. The court’s decision applies to all defendants, so you can appeal or file to vacate the conviction.
Talk to a lawyer if your case was affected.
All cases affected are now under review. If your case is still pending, consult with a lawyer because you may still be convicted without the breath results if you failed the road-side sobriety tests. If you were already convicted, speak with a lawyer about applying to vacate the conviction. Your case will not be reopened if you do nothing.
About Howard P. Lesnik, Esq.
Mr. Lesnik is a New Jersey criminal trial attorney board certified by the NJ Supreme Court. If you or a family member were arrested for a DWI offense affected by the recent ruling involving Sgt. Dennis, contact Mr. Lesnik immediately to review your case. He can be reached by email, by phone 908.264.7701, or by completing a form on right to schedule a complimentary 30-minute strategy session.