Published by New Jersey DUI Lawyer, Jeffery Hark
The equipment used to test drivers for their alcohol level at the 561 police stations around the state of New Jersey, the Alcotest, is to be replaced according to the state attorney general says in court papers. Why, after so much controversy??? Because the machine’s manufacturer, Draeger Safety Diagnostics of Irving, Texas, will warranty it for only three more years, a replacement technology will have to be put in place by 2016. In the meantime, the Attorney General’s Office has asked the Supreme Court to relax the controls on Alcotest that it set down in State v. Chun, 194 N.J. 54 (2008), the seminal ruling that found the device scientifically reliable as evidence in DWI cases.
That would allow the state to devote its resources to finding a new machine. The state’s disclosure that Alcotest is approaching its “sunset” came after two defense lawyers filed a March 15 motion in aid of litigants’ rights claiming the online database of Alcotest readings, required to be maintained under Chun, is faulty and incomplete. They also take issue with the state’s fees for use of the database, which range from $5 to 60 depending on number of reports requested and the attorneys have ask the court to order the state to implement a series of revisions to the Alcotest software that were mandated by Chun.
Robyn Mitchell, Deputy Attorney General, concedes that numerous discrepancies exist between the numbers in the online database and the raw data, citing the database’s filtering out of exceptional files. Mitchell describes in detail the technical difficulties the state had in creating the online database. Mitchell says the state’s decision to retire Alcotest comes after it was unable to work with Draeger Safety to make programming revisions that would facilitiate uploading of data from machines in police departments around the state to a centralized database as mandated in Chun.
Draeger hired a software developer, Ayoka Systems, to work on that job. Draeger advised the state in November 2012 that it was not willing to continue employing Ayoka, according to Mitchell. Draeger wanted the state to retain Ayoka or another software company directly, or do the work in-house. But the state lacked the resources to do the work itself and said it would have to put the work out to bid, which would cause a delay of six to nine months.
“In light of Draeger’s decision to stop supporting the existing Alcotest 7110 instruments at the end of 2016 and the state’s lack of a direct business relationship with Ayoka, the time that it would take [to make the necessary software changes] will likely be comparable to the time it would take to implement a new breath testing program,” Mitchell says. “Given that the Alcotest 7110 will become obsolete at the end of 2016, it makes more sense for the state to focus its attention and resources on replacing the Alcotest 7110.”
As a result by 2016 the State of New Jersey will be attempting to implement a new breath testing system to replace the Alcotest system that it fought so hard to have implemented only a few years ago. The Alcotester replaced the 1950 era breathalyzer which was used for over 40 years in New Jersey to convict drivers of DWI and DUI.