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DWI Breath Tests

Breath test machines are used to assess a suspect’s blood  alcohol concentration (BAC) after a DWI arrest.   The legal BAC limit in New    Jersey is .08% (except for underage drivers, who can  be found guilty of DWI after consumption of any amount of alcohol).  All persons driving on New Jersey roadways give their implied  consent to provide a breath sample if arrested on suspicion of DWI.  Individuals who refuse to provide a breath  sample will be charged with Refusal and face additional consequences.

While the science behind these devices is quite  sophisticated, the general function of the process is fairly  straightforward.  All breath test  machines operate on the principle that ingested alcohol travels with the blood  through the body, including the lungs.   As a result, the blood drops off carbon dioxide and picks up oxygen as a  suspect breathes.  Some of the alcohol  will then leave the body with carbon dioxide during breath.

New Jersey  uses the Alcotest 7110.  In 2008, the New  Jersey State Supreme Court ruled that the Alcotest 7110 is scientifically reliable. As a  result, the Alcotest replaced the Breathalyzer, which was invented in the  1950s, across most of the state.  According  to the ruling in State v. Chun, the Alcotest results will be admissible so long  as the police follow the safeguards provided in the Chun opinion.

There are many requirements established under  Chun: the State must present two tests within a specified tolerance to prove  intoxication; the second test must be conducted within two minutes of the  first; the operator of the Alcotest must be properly certified; suspect must be  personally observed by the operator for a period of 20 continuous prior to the  administration of the test; the mouthpiece must be changed between tests;  internal digital memory of the device must be produced to the defendant to  evaluate whether there are any operational abnormalities; repair logs must also  be produced.  These are just some of the  requirements provided in State v. Chun.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys continue to dispute the  reliability of Alcotest results.  New  arguments are being raised in Court to challenge the readings and DWI  charges.  Indeed, these are  continually-evolving issues and new chapters in New Jersey DWI law are now being  written.