New Jersey

Ex-Sergeant Charged, Casting Doubt on Thousands of DWI Convictions in New Jersey

A former New Jersey state police sergeant has been charged with falsifying records, casting doubt on tens of thousands of drunk driving convictions. 

Officials say Marc Dennis was responsible for calibrating all of the Alcotest machines -- similar to Breathalyzers -- in five counties over a seven-year period, including Asbury Park, Long Branch and Marlboro. 

Dennis is accused of not using a thermometer to check that a control solution on the Alcotest instrument was at body temperature. If the control solution doesn't work correctly, it calls into question the accuracy of the results of every test done on the machine.

The attorney general says: "The state has identified 20,667 individuals who provided evidential breath samples on those instruments." 

Defense attorney Jonathan Marshall says getting exact test results is especially important in New Jersey, where penalties differ greatly between a .08 blood alcohol content reading and a .10 BAC. 

Marshall says his firm has been getting calls from people who want their drunk driving convictions overturned after Dennis was charged.

"A lot of these people are desperate, they may have lost their license for 10 years," he said. "This gives them hope that there's a possibility they could get their license back." 

"We are hopeful that a lot of these cases are going to be overturned," he said. 

A class-action lawsuit has already been filed in south Jersey.

Prosecutors say field sobriety tests, like whether a driver can walk a straight line, can be enough to convict. But many defense attorneys say there is clearly reasonable doubt in thousands of cases. 

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