What to Know
- The New Jersey Supreme Court threw out more than 20,000 breathalyzer tests because the machines weren't calibrated properly
- The court said people convicted of DWI on the basis of those machines' readings could seek relief
- A state police sergeant was charged in 2016 with falsifying records related to the calibration
More than 20,000 breath tests conducted by police in DWI and other cases in New Jersey are not admissible because the machines used to administer the tests were not calibrated properly, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
That raised the prospect that people convicted on the basis of those tests could have their convictions overturned.
Last October, New Jersey prosecutors notified 20,667 people charged with drunken driving that their cases were being reviewed after a state police sergeant was accused of skipping a required step in the calibration of three alcohol breath-testing devices.
Officials accused the officer in 2016 of not using a thermometer to check that a control solution on the 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.
"For those cases already decided, affected defendants may now seek appropriate relief," the court wrote in its unanimous opinion, also lifting a stay on pending cases that were on hold while the court considered its ruling.
The original plaintiff in the lawsuit over the tests has since died, but the court took up the case anyway -- and vacated her conviction.
The machines in question were used in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union counties.