DUI/DWI: Calibrating the Alcotest Breathalyzer Machine

May 7, 2019

            In 2000 the State of New Jersey started using the Alcotest Instrument (current model used by most New Jersey police departments is the Alcotest 7110 MK III C) to conduct breath tests for purposes of testing the BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) of a driver’s blood to determine if it is above the legal limit. Four years later the State of New Jersey developed what is known as the ‘Current Calibration Protocol’ for purposes of calibrating the Alcotest Instrument wherein the Court under State v. Chun concluded that said protocol is sufficiently reliable to be admissible in Court to determine a defendant’s guilt or innocence. The Court also required that all Alcotest Instruments are recalibrated semi-annually to ensure the instruments’ accuracy.

            It is generally accepted within the scientific community that a person’s breath is approximately 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit. A specific simulator solution is used to calibrate the Alcotest Instrument with the solution heated to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit for purposes of mimicking a person’s breath. The solution’s temperature is measured using what is known as a NIST (National Institute of Standards & Technology) thermometer within 0.2 degrees to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit. It is essential that the temperature of the solution is accurate in order to properly calibrate the Alcotest Instrument’s BAC readings. As such, a properly functioning NIST thermometer is pivotal in ensuring that an Alcotest Instrument is properly standardized. In the matter of State v. Cassidy the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey concluded that the use of a NIST traceable thermometer is critical to the accurate calibration of Alcotest Instruments in the State of New Jersey. The accurate temperature readings is the foundation upon which the entire calibration process is built.

            The municipal prosecutor cannot simply enter into evidence the Alcotest’s reading for purposes of proving that a driver’s BAC is above the legal limit rather he or she must also be able to provide that the specific Alcotest Instrument used by the investigating officer was properly calibrated utilizing solution heated to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit with said solution measured by a properly functioning NIST thermometer. Not only must the Alcotest Instrument be properly calibrated before a driver’s BAC may submitted into evidence the State must also show that the NIST thermometer was properly functioning when it measured the solution’s temperature. If the prosecutor attempts to submit evidence that is ‘defective’ said evidence is subject to suppression via a motion to the Court. The exclusion of state’s evidence may mean the difference between jail and freedom.  

            A drunk driving charge in New Jersey is a serious offense if  you or someone you know has been charged with driving under the influence call the Law Offices of George Christopoulos, P.C. 201-488-1825. Experience matters. The prosecutor is not your friend and only an experienced lawyer may have the Court suppress evidence that is harmful to your defense.

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