New Jersey Court Discusses Breath Test Requirements in DWI Cases

Under New Jersey law, there are defined procedures the police must adhere to when administering a breath test to a DWI defendant to determine the defendant’s blood-alcohol level. If the police deviate from the procedures set forth under the law, the results of the test may be invalid. In a recent case, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, elaborated on the requirements regarding continuous observation prior to a breath test, and ultimately denied the defendant’s appeal of his DWI conviction. If you live in New Jersey and are charged with a DWI offense, it is critical to retain a skillful New Jersey DWI defense attorney who will fight vigorously on your behalf.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest and Breath Test

It is alleged that a police officer approached the defendant’s car, which was parked on the side of the road, after which the officer observed that the defendant smelled like alcohol and had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. The defendant admitted to consuming several beers at a nearby bar. The officer did not perform a field sobriety test but charged the defendant with DWI. The defendant was transported to a police station where he was placed in a holding cell. The officer sat outside the cell a few feet away to make sure the defendant did not eat or drink anything that could alter the results of a breath test.

Reportedly, approximately twenty minutes later, a second officer administered Alcotest, a breath test, which revealed the defendant’s blood-alcohol level to be 0.22%. The defendant was convicted of DWI, which was his third DWI offense, and sentenced to 180 days imprisonment and a ten-year license suspension. The defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the arresting officer did not observe the defendant for twenty minutes prior to administering Alcotest as required by law.

Procedure for Conducting an Alcotest

In New Jersey, prior to administering Alcotests, an officer must wait twenty minutes from the time of the arrest. Further, the officer is required to observe the defendant during the twenty-minute period to make sure that the defendant does not consume any alcohol. If the defendant regurgitates, chews gum, or swallows anything, the twenty-minute periods must start anew. The twenty-minute observation period does not have to be conducted by the officer that administers the Alcotest, but it must be established by clear and convincing evidence that the observation took place.

In the subject case, the court found that there was ample support for the State’s argument that the observation was conducted properly. The court rejected the defendant’s assertion that the observation was invalid because the officer filed out paperwork and entered information into the computer during the observation period. Rather, the court stated that an officer could multi-task during the period, as long as he or she is close enough to the defendant to observe that nothing that would affect the results of the test. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a New Jersey DWI crime, it is advisable to meet with an experienced New Jersey DWI defense attorney to discuss your potential defenses. The zealous attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have the knowledge and skills needed to help you seek a favorable outcome, and we will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us at 877-450-8301 or through our form online to schedule a meeting.