New Jersey DUI/DWI Discusses the Unreliability of Urine Test Results to Prove Blood Alcohol Content

blood-testWhen somebody is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, the government is responsible for proving all elements of the offense based on clear and convincing evidence. In New Jersey, this can be proved in various ways, but the most common is through the use of blood alcohol evidence to show that the driver was operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher.

Most people are familiar with the common breathalyzer test, which is used to measure BAC based on a driver’s breath sample. In most cases, the breathalyzer results will make up the only evidence of BAC in a prosecutor’s case. Other times, however, the state may also be able to rely on blood or urine samples to satisfy the government’s burden of proving that a driver had a BAC of .08% or higher when he or she was operating the vehicle.

While the Edward M. Janzekovich law blog has previously discussed the unreliability of urine testing to determine marijuana use, many experts now also believe that urine testing is the least reliable way to determine a driver’s BAC when it comes to proving charges for driving while intoxicated with alcohol.

When Is Urine Testing Used?

Due to the fact that many substances other than alcohol will not be detected by a breathalyzer, police officers may sometimes ask for or get a warrant for a driver’s urine sample if the officer suspects the driver is under the influence of drugs. For example, the presence of marijuana may be in someone’s urine, but there is no currently reliable breath test for marijuana.

Other times, a driver suspected for DUI/DWI may be involved in a motor vehicle accident. If certain injuries occur, such as an injury to the face or nose, or if the driver is hospitalized, a breathalyzer test may not be possible. At those times, a blood or urine test may be requested.

Regardless of why a urine test is obtained, once the state has legal access to a urine sample, the prosecution may seek to use the urine sample as evidence of the driver’s BAC.

The Unreliability of Urine Tests

Importantly, urine tests are considered the least reliable form of chemical test, and can often be effectively challenged in court. In fact, the National Institute of Drug Abuse has found that more than 20 percent of the labs that process urine tests for the presence of drugs and alcohol have reported “false positives.” This means that about 20 percent of the labs reported the presence of drugs or alcohol in drug-free or alcohol-free urine samples.

Furthermore, errors are quite common in urine testing because the technicians analyze water and not blood. BAC results in urine tests are usually inflated because the concentration of alcohol in urine is approximately 1.33 times the concentration of alcohol in blood. Drug screens of urine also tend to confuse similar chemical compounds and can lead to inaccurate results. Urine tests show only the presence of metabolites – inactive traces of previously ingested substances – not the actual drug or alcohol consumed.

Unsurprisingly, New Jersey courts consider urine testing the least scientifically reliable form of chemical test.

Challenging Urine Test Results

Just because you have incriminating urine results does not automatically mean that the state can use this evidence to convict you of a DUI/DWI. Certain protocols must be observed during the administration of a legal urine test in the state. The driver must be given a certain amount of privacy while still ensuring the accuracy of the sample. Drivers should also be instructed to empty their bladders, wait 20 minutes, and then urinate again. There is also strict storage protocol.

Because urine tests are considered to be extremely unreliable in both drunk driving and driving under the influence of drugs cases, it is possible to successfully challenge the results of such tests. If you or someone you know is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you should contact an experienced DWI attorney immediately. An experienced lawyer will know how to identify the potential flaws in a case based on urine test evidence and can incorporate those methods into a solid defense strategy on your behalf.

New Jersey DUI Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Help Even When There Is Evidence of Drunk Driving

DWI/DUI cases can often involve complicated issues of scientific evidence, and successfully challenging that evidence requires knowledge and experience. If you or someone you know is facing a DWI charge, a knowledgeable drunk driving 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.

Breathalyzer Calibration Issues and Challenging DUI Evidence

In recent weeks, the Edward M. Janzekovich Law Blog has covered developments in the case of falsified calibration records for New Jersey’s only official breathalyzer machines – the Alcotest 7110 Mk-III. Questions of false DUI convictions based on unreliable Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) evidence were raised after it came to light that state police Sergeant Marc Dennis may have falsely certified that he calibrated Alcotest devices at various police departments throughout multiple counties. He subsequently received charges for fourth-degree falsifying records and third-degree tampering with records.

Now, it turns out that New Jersey’s case is not an isolated incident. Part way across the country, in Gilpin County, Colorado, a defense attorney is making claims against that state under similar circumstances. The challenges in New Jersey and Colorado, as well as challenges to the reliability of Alcotest results in other states like Massachusetts, demonstrate how important it is to speak with an experienced drunk driving lawyer every time you or someone you know is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Evidence cannot always be taken at face value, and a knowledgeable attorney will know where to look and how to challenge the case being brought against you.

Forgery and a Challenge to Colorado’s Breathalyzer Program

In defending his client, a Colorado attorney recently discovered evidence that could affect the breathalyzer program in that state. Like in New Jersey, Colorado requires that its breathalyzers be regularly calibrated to ensure that they are accurate. A former Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment lab worker has made statements that his signature was forged on important state documents used to certify breathalyzer testing. This means that someone else was using his name to sign off that calibration was performed or performed in a specific way. It is unknown if the tests were ever even performed.

The following photographs, comparing real and forged signatures, were used to support the claims, and former co-workers of the employee have testified that they used his name to sign documents.

Forged Breathalyzer Calibration

The same state worker has also admitted to putting his signature on other forms, to authenticate that calibration tests had occurred, even though he had not seen the tests performed. Other evidence uncovered during this process shows that some of the signatures on calibration certifying documents belong to employees who were not even working at the time their signatures were used.

If the judge in this case is willing to dismiss the DUI evidence based on the falsified breathalyzer calibration documents, it could bring into question many breathalyzer results used in Colorado courts over the last four years.

Why Calibration Records are Important

As a driver in New Jersey, if you are charged with drunk driving, one of the primary pieces of evidence the state may use to try and convict you is BAC evidence based on a breathalyzer test. In some circumstances, this is the only admissible evidence against you and, without it, the prosecution may be forced to dismiss its entire case.
BAC and breathalyzer evidence is also based on science. In the 2008 case of State v. Chun, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that, for BAC evidence to be admissible, both the breath samples and the testing equipment must adhere to stringent guidelines to be considered scientifically reliable as a matter of law.

If the law requires that the government calibrate its equipment in a specific way, it means failing to properly calibrate the machines can cause them to be inaccurate. Even if the inaccuracy is small, that could make a big difference for the thousands of people who are tested on the equipment – some of whom may be found guilty by a very slight margin. For instance, a BAC of .08% is evidence of drunk driving, while a .079% is not.

An experienced DUI attorney makes it his job to find false DUI evidence or falsified DUI records. Without reliable testing, innocent people could be convicted. At the same time, the government should want BAC evidence to be reliable, so that proper convictions are not based on fraudulent evidence. If you or someone you know is charged for driving while intoxicated, a good lawyer will review all the evidence and may even be able to have the case dismissed against you completely.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Will Work to Defend You

If you or someone you know is charged for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the government must present clear and convincing evidence that you were driving while intoxicated. A knowledgeable drunk driving attorney will know how to review this evidence and present the best defense in the case. 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.