Chemical testing is often used to provide evidence to a court that a defendant was driving under the influence in New Jersey. A chemical breath test involves a chemical analysis through the use of tests administered to a driver on an instrument approved by a certified Breath Test Operator, using approved methods of chemical breath testing. In some cases, urine or blood is tested. At the Grimes Law Firm, our New Jersey DUI lawyer may be able to attack the chemical testing that was done in your case as part of your DUI defense, whether this is a first or subsequent DUI charge.Chemical Testing and Protecting Your Rights
Every element of a DUI charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high standard. Chemical testing is often used to meet that standard in the courtroom. However, some people are surprised when they are charged with a first DUI to learn that the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" can be met in a DUI case solely by using the arresting officer's observations and testimony that the defendant was operating a car or other motor vehicle while intoxicated. The officer can base their testimony on any signs of intoxication that they observed, any admissions that you made, any field sobriety tests that they administered, and their training and experience. Both direct and circumstantial evidence can be used to secure a conviction.
Moreover, every driver in New Jersey is deemed to have implicitly given consent to chemical testing when they are pulled over for a suspected DUI. A refusal to submit to chemical testing is a motor vehicle violation. To prove this violation, the State must show that it is more likely than not that you refused to submit to chemical testing when you were required to do so.
Sometimes it is possible for an attorney to challenge the chemical testing that has been done. For example, in certain cases, it may be possible to secure an expert witness to show that the chemical testing was done improperly or interpreted improperly. However, Alcotest results are admissible as long as there is a certification about the operability and accuracy of the instrument used to perform the test. Any expert testimony to the contrary may be technically admissible but may have limited probative value.
When a chemical breath test has been administered, and the results have been secured, the State can prove a per se DWI violation. The chemical testing results are admissible if the State can show clear and convincing evidence that there is a foundation for admitting them. The foundational criteria in New Jersey are that the court takes judicial notice that the chemical breath test instrument is scientifically reliable and accurate, the operator was properly trained, the instrument was being operated correctly, and the operator used the chemical testing instrument in the way that they were trained. The first element is well-settled. Chemical breath testing equipment is considered scientifically reliable.
The officer's replica certificate is introduced to show that the operator was certified. The prosecution need not prove facts about the certification unless there is relevant evidence that calls the certification document into question. When there is an issue about the certification, the rules set forth for chemical breath testing are found at N.J.A.C. 13:51-1.14 and 13:51- 4.2(a)1.
The instrument is supposed to be working correctly. Pre-test and post-test certifications of the instrument are considered prima facie proof that the tests were reliable when properly administered. However, the certificates are supposed to be prepared accurately and competently, and they must have strong signs of trustworthiness. In most cases, the operator must provide testimony that they followed the correct steps for tests administered on the chemical test instrument.
Similarly, when blood testing rather than breath testing occurs, it may be possible for the State to prove a per se DWI violation by proving the same elements and also putting forward the blood test results from the lab. Blood tests require more documentation than chemical breath tests do.
There may be a constitutional basis or another procedural basis to challenge the prosecution's case, beyond attacking the chemical test itself. For example, it may be possible to argue that the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing when they pulled you over or that you were arrested without being read the Miranda warnings. When there are serious constitutional issues surrounding a stop, it may be possible to get evidence seized during the stop suppressed.Consult a Knowledgeable Drunk Driving Defense Attorney in New Jersey
If you are concerned about chemical testing and its impact on a DUI charge, you should hire an experienced trial lawyer to guard your rights and present a strong defense. At the Grimes Law Firm, we provide experienced legal representation to people charged with DUIs and other motor vehicle offenses, such as driving with a suspended license, in Neshanic Station and elsewhere in Somerset County, as well as throughout the tri-state area. Contact us online or at (908) 371-1066 to schedule a free consultation.