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STATE v. HENDRICKS — NEW JERSEY MURDER TRIAL — "NOT GUILTY" VERDICT

Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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Defense attorneys in NJ are challenging reliability of alcotest data

In accordance with a Supreme Court Directive, the State established a centralized database of Alcotest results downloaded through a modem to the State of New Jersey Alcotest Inquiry Web Interface in an attempt to permit that individuals charged with DWI have access to centrally collected and maintained data on their own cases. However, it appears that the database established may contain corrupted data and a challenge to the statewide use of the Alcotest in DWI cases has been lodged with the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Although the breathalyzer has been in use in New Jersey for decades, the Alcotest 7110 is now considered the newest and best technology. Although subject to continuing challenges, the machine has been found by the New Jersey Supreme Court to be a scientifically accurate device for measuring human blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. The Alcotest 7110 uses a small sample of air to calculate the BAC level of an alleged drunk driver to determine the level of intoxication. The digital results are downloaded via modem from the machines at the various police departments to a centralized state website.

It was recently discovered that corrupted data for 15 out of 45 Alcotest machines appeared when comparing individual results on CD-ROMS, which had been created by state technicians. However, those errors do not appear in the centralized database. It was noted that the errors, which existed in the machines’ data logs, were not being correctly transmitted to the centralized system. Prior to the new system being implemented, whereby the data was directly downloaded to the State’s centralized system, technicians would visit the various police stations and download the data onto a CD, leaving a copy behind at the station. Those CDs have been shown to have errors thereby calling into question the accuracy of the Alcotest machine.

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