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.