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NJ Ruling Means 20K DWI Cases Could Be Tossed

Officer allegedly failed to calibrate blood-testing machines
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2018 1:03 AM CST
Lawyer Evan M. Levow is shown with an Alcotest 7110 MKIII-C machine at his office in Cherry Hill, NJ.   (AP Photo/ Jose F. Moreno, File)

(Newser) – A lot of drunk drivers in New Jersey could end up getting away with it because one police officer allegedly failed to do his job properly. The state's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that some 20,667 people accused of drunk driving could have their cases tossed because of Sgt. Marc Dennis, who allegedly failed to perform a temperature check while calibrating machines used to check blood-alcohol levels, NJ.com reports. The ruling means that test results from five of New Jersey's 21 counties—Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union—are inadmissible as evidence if they involve "Alcotest" machines that Dennis handled. A criminal case against the officer, who denies wrongdoing, is still pending.

It's not clear how many convictions will actually be vacated—some defendants will have been found not guilty, while others could have been convicted on other evidence. State authorities told the top court that the step Dennis allegedly skipped is only required in New Jersey, the AP reports. The judges ordered the state to notify people who could seek to have DWI convictions vacated because of the ruling, though lawyer Matthew W. Reisig predicts a "hornets' nest" lies ahead in the courts. "The state at some point is going to notify people, but we don’t know if they are notifying the correct people," he tells the New York Times. "I have zero confidence that the state knows who the affected people are." (This driver was involved in a fatal DUI crash 90 minutes after police let him go.)

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