More Than 20,000 DWI Cases In New Jersey Closer To Being Thrown Out

After a state trooper was charged with mishandling alcohol breath testing devices, more than 20,000 DWI cases in New Jersey are closer to being appealed or dismissed.

People who were charged with DWI between 2008 and 2016 are being informed by county prosecutors that their cases are under review. Letters were issued to more than 20,000 DWI suspects in Somerset, Monmouth, Middlesex, Ocean and Union counties, informing them about the scandal involving State Police Sgt. Marc Dennis.

Sgt. Dennis was accused of skipping an essential step in the recalibration process of Alcotest breathalyzers which is required to make sure that the devices function properly.

Dennis was charged with second-degree official misconduct originally, along with third-degree tampering with public records as well as fourth-degree falsifying records. Apart from these, he was also facing a serious charge of official misconduct which was dropped earlier this year. Despite all the charges, Dennis has denied any wrongdoing.

The upheaval started last year when an Ocean County woman filed a potential class-action lawsuit in the state which brought more than 20,000 DWI cases under question. All these cases were tied to Dennis. The cases included the case of the woman who filed the class-action lawsuit. It was found that her BAC was just a point above the legal limit. As a result of Dennis’s alleged botching of the process, courts are now working on what should be done with the 20,000 DWI cases that are under question. Litigation for the class-action lawsuit is on hold.

A retired Superior Court judge was appointed earlier this year by the state Supreme Court to review if any DWI cases could potentially be dismissed for being linked to any devices calibrated by Dennis.

In 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled that breathalyzer results are admissible scientific evidence, as long as procedures are followed by the police to ensure that the devices are calibrated and take accurate readings. Moreover, the most recent calibration report for the device and credentials of the coordinator who performed the test have to be entered as evidence along with the BAC reading.

The breath tests are not the only forensic evidence being called into question in the state. A forensic scientist with the State Police North Regional Laboratory was charged with falsely reporting marijuana results last year. The charges faced by the scientist were that he hadn’t actually tested the results.

The State Police North Regional Laboratory was involved in approximately 80,000 drug prosecutions in various counties, including Hudson, Bergen, Somerset, Mercer, Sussex, Hunterdon, Essex, Monmouth, Passaic, Middlesex, Union, Morris and Warren counties. A special judge was appointed by the state Supreme Court to review these drug cases as well.

The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office issued a letter this month to individuals facing DWI charges, which advised them to contact an attorney if they believed they are suffering any adverse consequences as a result of their DWI conviction.

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Matthew V. Portella

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The Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC. is a full service law firm where attorneys with their extensive experience provide strong & Aggressive defense against DWI/DUI & Criminal cases.