New Jersey appeals court rules on Alcotest room inspections
Cape May readers who followed a recent discussion about the reliability of police reports may take interest in a recent decision by a three-judge panel of the state court of appeals. The decision limits the ability of a person charged with drunk driving to demand inspection of the rooms in which police officers operate the Alcotest device used to measure blood alcohol tests.
One important reason that a defense attorney might want to inspect an instrument room would be to determine whether or not other electronic devices may have skewed breath test results. Due to concerns over radio frequency interference, New Jersey law requires police officers to make certain that devices such as radios and cell phones are not present in the room at the time that Alcotest results are obtained.
In its recent ruling, the appellate court concluded that a DWI defendant was not entitled to inspect the instrument room at the Tom’s River police department without first demonstrating a reasonable basis to be concerned about potential radio frequency interference.
In addition to concerns about electronic interference, a DWI attorney may want the opportunity to inspect the instrument room to check up on other details that may be important to a person’s defense. For example, police are required to observe a suspect for a minimum time period before administering a breath test. Features of a particular instrument room may call into doubt the ability of police to have continuously observed the defendant.
It remains to be seen whether the scope of this decision will extend beyond inspections for sources of radio interference, but the decision increases the importance of acting on a thorough understanding of state law. The decision imposes new restrictions, but it still gives a defendant the opportunity to inspect instrument rooms under the right circumstances.
Even though the new ruling does not impose an absolute bar to inspecting instrument rooms, the decision illustrates why New Jersey residents charged with drunk driving should consider seeking out an experienced DWI attorney. A dedicated and knowledgeable DWI attorney may recognize the importance of details that others could easily overlook.
Source: New Jersey Online, “Defense don’t have right to view DWI test rooms, N.J. court rules,” Mary Ann Spoto, Oct. 24, 2012