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Court: OK to use inaccurate BAC monitors

In the state of New Jersey, your DUI court case could hinge on results from a faulty machine - and the state's Supreme Court condones it. A controversial decision from the New Jersey State Supreme Court will permit police officers to continue using a specific brand of blood alcohol content testing devices, even though the machines are known to have software bugs. The move will permit the police officers to continue administering tests during drunk driving arrests, despite the fact that the machines have been known to have problems for more than five years. The state's highest court had previously ordered manufacturers to fix several major memory deficiencies within the devices, but it overturned its own original decision.

Prosecutors are heralding the move as a victory, but scores of criminal defense attorneys argue that the devices are unreliable and thus unable to provide accurate information. Two defense attorneys had requested that the judges revisit their previous ruling. Those lawyers were hoping that the state would ban the machines altogether. Scientific studies show that certain populations are unable to provide the full 1.5-liter breath sample required for accurate analysis. Women over age 60 are particularly vulnerable to machine errors because of this problem. The judges granted a small exception for those drivers, but they approved the machines' use for everyone else.

A newer, more accurate version of the Alcotest machine will be available throughout the state in 2016, but drivers will simply have to make do with the unreliable machines until then. Justices have argued that the machine provides adequate results that are useful in court, but they admit that Alcotest workers are unable to fix the egregious software problems associated with existing tests. The state Bar Association has even admonished the state for falling prey to the whims of prosecutors, lending credibility to the argument.

Source:, "Alcotest devices fair game despite software flaws, N.J. Supreme Court rules" Salvador Rizzo, Sep. 18, 2013

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