According to news reports, the repair records for the Hoboken police department’s breathalyzer device came under scrutiny following revelations revealed during the drunken driving case against the former mayor of Union City. Based on news reports, former Union City mayor, Raul Garcia, had been arrested on charges of drunken driving following a car crash back in September when a breath-testing device showed a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.16 percent.
Understanding that the defined legal limit for intoxicated driving is a BAC of 0.08 percent, having twice that concentration of alcohol in one’s bloodstream is hard to ignore. As New Jersey drunken driving defense lawyers, my firm has handled cases very similar to this one, certainly in terms of a motorist having a single-vehicle accident and then being accused by police of being under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs (drug DUI), or an illegal substance, such as marijuana or cocaine.
The facts are very important in these kinds of cases; especially the test results from a breathalyzer device, such as the Alcotest machine. Just as important to one’s defense is the manner in which the police maintain that equipment. In certain circumstances, poor maintenance or faulty design can drastically affect the outcome of a DWI case, not the least of which is challenging the veracity of the data produced by these machines.
In the news article mentioned earlier, the former mayor reportedly slammed into a utility pole while driving his Mercedes-Benz in Hudson County, after which Hoboken police arrested the man and took him into custody. The crash happened late on a Thursday evening when the 47-year-old was driving home from Bayonne, NJ. Heading westbound along a stretch of Paterson Avenue, just before Jackson Street the man’s vehicle swerved and collided with a nearby utility pole, according to police reports.
After officers arrived at the crash site, Garcia was reportedly unable to maintain his balance according to officers at the scene. Claiming that Garcia was swaying, slurring his speech and smelling like alcohol, officers administered a breathalyzer test, which indicated that the man’s BAC was over the legal limit. Garcia had reportedly admitted to having “a couple drinks” that evening, and was subsequently charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
Having entered an initial plea of not guilty in late September, Garcia later changed his plea to guilty, according to more recent news articles. Based on those reports, the former mayor pled guilty to DWI charges and received a 90-day driver’s license suspension.
This particular drunken driving charge included a charge of DWI within 1,000 year of a school zone, which carries with it a potential driver’s license suspension of upward of two years; however the man’s lawyer was able to show the court that the crash site was actually a little farther than 1,000 feet from the nearest school. The reduced charge meant Garcia was only charged with a “regular” DWI, which carries a maximum penalty of up to one year’s suspension of his driver’s license.
Finally, and more significantly, recent revelations show that the repair records for Hoboken’s Breathalyzer machine were such that it could not be determined if the unit was functioning correctly at the time Garcia’s BAC measurement was taken. This resulted in the defendant pleading guilty to DWI based solely on police “observations.” The judge in the case charged Garcia with the maximum sentence — namely loss of license for up to 90 days.
Hoboken Breathalyzer repair records under investigation after controversy in former Union City mayor’s DWI case, NJ.com, December 07, 2011
Former Union City Mayor Rudy Garcia pleads guilty to Hoboken DWI — driver’s license suspended 90 days, NJ.com, November 21, 2011
Former Union City Mayor Raul Garcia had 0.16 blood alcohol content, NJ.com, September 20, 2011