Breathalyzer Regulation and When You Can Challenge a Breathalyzer Result

A police officer holds the breath test machine for a suspect to blow into with a police car in the background.

When you think of getting pulled over for suspected drunk driving, two of the things that will probably happen are 1) you will be asked to perform a field sobriety test, where police ask a driver to walk in a straight line, follow a flashlight with their eyes, or count while standing on one foot; and 2) you will be asked to take a “breathalyzer” test. In New Jersey, when you have been pulled over for any reason, and the officer has reasonable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the breathalyzer test that measures your blood alcohol content (BAC) will be the best evidence that the prosecution will have against you if you are later charged for DUI / DWI.

Though many people still refer to it as a “breathalyzer,” New Jersey actually uses a process known as the Alcotest 7110 MK-IIIC to officially obtain BAC results. Regardless of the test used, the law requires that any blood alcohol test used against you be properly administered by the right people, and the evidence against you must be protected to make sure that it is not tampered with in any way.

If there is something wrong with the way a blood alcohol test is given to you, wrong with who gives you the test or checks the results, or wrong with the way the evidence is stored and produced at trial, an experienced DWI / DUI attorney may be able to challenge the results of the test and have them excluded at trial.

Road Side or Portable Breath Test

Many drivers do not realize that there are two potential breath tests that a police officer may use during a drunk driving investigation and arrest: the roadside breath test and the station test. The roadside breath test is also referred to as a portable breath test (PBT), and it is not as accurate as the station test. For that reason, the PBT is only used to get an estimate of BAC and used to establish probable cause that a station test is necessary. The results of the PBT are not admissible in court to prove drunk driving.

Regulation of Alcotest 7110 and other BAC Tests

In order to be considered legally valid and admissible in evidence, a BAC test must be performed on a device and through the use of procedures that are approved by the attorney general. Moreover, the person who performs the test must be properly trained and approved by the attorney general. Currently, the Alcotest 7110 has been approved by the attorney general, and, despite being challenged in the past, it has been upheld as scientifically reliable by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Challenging the Alcotest Results

Because the process is strictly regulated, an experienced attorney may still be able to raise several challenges to the BAC results, some of which are:

  • Improper certification of the Alcotest machine – meaning the machine was not properly inspected by a Breath Test Coordinator Instructor, who issues a Breath Testing Instrument Inspection Certificate.
  • Improper calibration of the Alcotest machine – meaning the results may have been inaccurate.
  • Improper qualification or certification of the officer operating the Alcotest machine – if the breath test operator was not certified or had an expired certification, the results of your breath test will be inadmissible.
  • Possible contamination of the Alcotest reading.
  • Improper adherence to the 20 minute observation mandate.

Because BAC readings are not always perfect, there may be ways to challenge breathalyzer test results and have them excluded. For that reason, it is especially important to always consult an experienced DWI / DUI lawyer if you are pulled over and charged with drunk driving. A DUI attorney may be able to fight the charges against you or have the charges dismissed completely.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help if You Are Charged with DUI / DWI

A DUI / DWI charge for operating a motor vehicle will involve many complicated evidential issues. Such a charge can also result in severe penalties that affect you and your loved ones. If you are charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence of any substance in New Jersey, an experienced DWI / DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.