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.