New Jersey State Police sergeant charged with records tampering in DWI cases

TRENTON – Sgt. Marc Dennis with the New Jersey State Police, has been charged with records tampering for allegedly skipping a very important step which is needed in the calibration of alcohol breath testing devices.

The revelation has put more than 20,000 DWI cases under question, and it could open up court challenges in all these cases. Details of the disclosure were given Monday by the state Division of Criminal Justice, which brought the charges. A copy of the letter was sent to court administrators by NJ Advance Media.

Sgt. Dennis is facing several charges, including being accused of third degree tampering with public records and fourth degree falsifying or tampering with records. He was working as a coordinator in the State Police Alcohol Drug Testing Unit.

According to the division’s director, Elie Honig, Dennis was accused of deliberately omitting a step in re-calibrating three Alcotest devices, also called breathalyzers. These devices are used to test the intoxication level of drivers who are accused of drunk driving. Honig further stated that the alleged omission of the step does not undermine the scientific credibility of any State Police test results.

Dennis’ attorney, Robert Ebberup, said that his client denies the charges and plans to plead not guilty.

Details of the incident given by Lt. Brian Polite, a spokesman for the State Police, stated that Dennis’ behavior was noticed by his supervisor who immediately reported him to the division’s internal affairs unit called the Office of Professional Standards. Once it was determined that criminal charges may be filed against Dennis, the matter was referred to the Division of Criminal Justice.

Before joining the State Police Alcohol Drug Testing Unit, Dennis calibrated Alcotest instruments in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union counties. According to the letter, he worked in these counties over the course of seven years. A total of 20,667 individual cases were identified involving breath testing devices he handled.

Another similar State Police case involving a drug lab technician, Kamalkant Shah, who was accused of falsifying test results in a single marijuana case, brought about nearly 15,000 drug cases under question. The accusation in Dennis’ case could create a similar tangle of litigation.

Similar to the drug lab case, the Attorney General’s Office has requested that a judge be appointed as a “special master” to handle the potential influx of appeals in these cases.

Details given by the State authorities allege that Dennis falsely certified to performing temperature checks when he was recalibrating the Alcotest devices. These devices were used in two DWI cases before they were taken out of service.

Although that step is not scientifically necessary according to Honig, it is required as part of the procedure developed by the State Police’s chief forensic scientist. The procedure was created in compliance with a state Supreme Court decision in relating to the admissibility of DWI test results in court.

In a letter, Honig wrote, “The breath test results were not relied upon in reaching the disposition of these two cases. We have notified defense counsel in those cases of the circumstances described in this letter.”

Dennis was suspended without pay on Monday. His attorney said that he could not comment on the specific charges being faced by his client, but he is preparing a vigorous defense.


Camden County Man Sentenced To Prison For Fatal Crash After Bar Fight

FREEHOLD – 24-year-old Edwin Martinez of Camden has been sentenced to more than 8 years in prison for driving drunk after getting into a fight at a Belmar bar and killing a passenger riding in his vehicle that night.

Martinez was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment from which he will have to serve more than 8 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. According to Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni, the terms of his sentence were imposed by Superior Court Judge Joseph Oxley on Friday.

At the time of the crash, Martinez’ blood-alcohol level was recorded more than twice the legal limit. The incident took place on 20 April 2014 when Martinez sped off from Connolly Station in Belmar after the restaurant closed at 2 a.m. 26-year-old Tiffany Soto of Howell was riding with him in the vehicle.

At the bar, Martinez got into a dispute with bar patrons and smashed the windshield of a car according to investigators.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor explained that Soto went to the restaurant to pick up Martinez. However, instead of letting Soto drive, Martinez got behind the wheel and sped off. After leaving the bar, he went down Eighth Avenue toward Route 35, ran a red light before he hit a car with two people inside.

Martinez’ vehicle hit a curb, overturned and struck a pole. The Honda became airborne before landing in the parking lot of the Belmar Marina. The vehicle hit a pickup truck before it finally came to a stop at a fence near the water.

As a result of the crash, Soto was thrown from the car. She landed in the Shark River and was rushed to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune where she later died.

Martinez’ blood sample was taken for testing which revealed his blood alcohol concentration level at 0.27%, more than two-and-a-half times the legal limit of alcohol allowed in New Jersey.

Martinez faced several charges and in March, he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, assault by auto and a motor vehicle summons which charged him with driving while intoxicated.

Martinez also lost his driver’s license for 5 years as part of his sentence.