20K DWI Cases Could Be Tossed In NJ After Supreme Court Ruling

Over 20,000 people who were accused of DWI in New Jersey could have their cases dismissed based on a Tuesday ruling of the state’s Supreme Court. The high court, in a unanimous ruling found criminal charges against a State Police sergeant in charge of calibrating breath-testing devices and rendered the breath test results from five counties inadmissible as evidence. The court then vacated the conviction of a woman who had pled guilty to a DWI based on a result from one of those machines and had later died while waiting for her legal struggle to conclude.

The court further ordered state authorities to notify anyone whose case involved results from machines that Sgt. Marc Dennis may have handled that their results were not scientifically sound. This decision has opened the floodgates for thousands of people to challenge DWI convictions that have occurred over the past decade.

20K DWI Cases Now In Jeopardy Of Being Tossed

In 2016, Sgt. Marc Dennis was accused of lying on official documents about performing a legally required temperature check while calibrating just three machines, known as Alcotest devices, which gauge the blood-alcohol level of accused drunken drivers. The criminal case against Sgt. Dennis is still pending. This past Tuesday, his attorney stated that the sergeant still maintains his innocence. The accusations called into question any and all test results involving a machine that the Sergeant handled, including devices used by local police in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union counties between 2008 and 2016.

This disclosure prompted a native of New Jersey by the name of Eileen Cassidy to seek to withdraw a guilty plea that she had entered in Spring Lake Municipal Court based on the results of a breath test. Cassidy, however, died of a terminal illness in March but the judges still ruled on the case because of the “significant public importance” of the issue. State authorities maintained that the temperature check that Sgt. Dennis was accused of skipping was one of several redundancies and fail-safes to ensure that the readings are as accurate as possible and omitting that one step did not invalidate the results. They further argued that New Jersey is the only state that requires the step.

The Supreme Court, however decided to side with Judge Joseph Lisa, who was appointed as a special master to handle the issue and found the omission of the step raised substantial doubts about the reliability of the machines. County prosecutors began notifying defendants in 2016 that their cases could potentially be thrown out. However, those cases have been on hold pending the Supreme Court’s ruling. The court ordered state authorities to notify all DWI defendants in the pool of those affected of the decision so that they may take any appropriate action they need.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said at an unrelated event Tuesday that his office was reviewing the decision and are still coming up with guidance for county prosecutors and municipal prosecutors who handle many of these cases. It’s unclear how many cases will ultimately be tossed or dismissed as breath tests are an important part of DWI cases. It is best to remember that a person can still be convicted of a DWI without one.

Michael Hobbie who is the Eatontown attorney who represented Cassidy, said the pool of 20,667 DWI cases includes an unknown number of people who may have been acquitted at trial or were convicted on evidence other than a Breathalyzer result such as the observation of officers etc. Additionally, defendants have to come forward to challenge their conviction and because the pool of cases goes back years, the majority of them may have already served their driver’s license suspensions and other penalties in the time that has passed.

Read On To Find Out About 20K DWI Cases That May Be Tossed After NJ Supreme Court Ruling or call the office of Leckerman Law for a Consultation at (856) 429-2323 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.

News Source: www.nj.com

Driving, Drugs And The DRE

Would you trust a non-medical professional to take an accurate measure of your pulse or blood pressure? If you are feeling ill, would you make an appointment with anyone other than a doctor for a diagnosis? Of course you wouldn’t . Yet, certain police officers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are performing these types of routine medical procedures during DUI investigations when drug use is suspected.

Specifically, these police officers refer to themselves as Drug Recognition Experts or DREs. DREs believe that by using a 12-step evaluation process it can be determined if a driver is under of the influence of drugs in one or more of 7 drug categories.

During the 12-step evaluation process, the officer must perform the following physical evaluations:

  • Check blood pressure;
  • Check pulse;
  • Measure size of the pupils;
  • Check muscle tone;
  • Check body temperature; and
  • Check pupil reaction of eyes to various lighting conditions.

Based on the physical conditions noted and performance of field sobriety tests, the DRE will state if a driver is under the influence of a narcotic analgesic, CNS stimulant, CNS depressant, dissociative anesthetic, hallucinogen, inhalant, cannabis or combination of drugs.

To become a DRE, a police officer need not receive formal medical training to perform the various evaluations mentioned above. Instead, fellow police instructors train the DREs how to measure blood pressure, pulse, muscle tone and pupil size. Furthermore, these instructors are not required to have formal medical training.

Moreover, the DRE is not required to have taken any academic courses concerning the recognition and effects of drugs on the body (that is pharmacology or toxicology).

Is the description of this evaluation process starting to seem bizarre to you? Well, it should seem strange, because DREs are making medical determinations that are being used in court to convict drivers.

To effectively fight this junk science in court, proper legal challenges must be made to prohibit the DRE evaluation from being used as evidence of DUI. Finally, challenges must be made concerning the qualifications of the DRE to perform this evaluation and any errors made during the evaluation process. Otherwise, an innocent driver may lose his or her license and may be spending some time in jail.