Reasonable Justification Required for Inspection of Alcotest Room
The answer to the question, “What discovery is a defendant entitled to when defending against a DWI charge?” is ever changing. Earlier today the Appellate Division approved for publication the consolidated case, State of New Jersey vs Michael Carrero. (The companion case is, State of New Jersey vs Andres F. Baluski.) In this case the defendants both were permitted by their respective Municipal Courts to inspect the room in the police station (or police barracks) where the Alcotesrt was administered. The defendants were seeking the inspection to photograph and measure the room and attempt to determine if there was any electromagnetic interference (EMI) with the Alcotest.
Under the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling, State of New Jersey v. Chun the Alcotest should be located 100 feet from any device which may emit electromagnetic interference. Electronic devices such as cell phones, pagers, radio transmitters, photocopy machines, microwave ovens, and computer terminals all produce electromagnetic interference.
Over the prosecutor’s objection, the the defense in both cases obtained court orders from the Municipal Court to inspect the Alcotest rooms. The state took an interlocutory appeal to the Superior Court which was ultimately denied and state further appealed to the Appellate Division. The Appellate Division reversed the Superior Court and Municipal Court decisions.
Judge Sabatino, who authored the opinion, reasoned that a DWI charge is quasi criminal and the “relevant” discovery in a DWI case is much narrower than a full-fledged criminal case. The decision goes on to state,
“… An accused’s right to discovery in a DWI prosecution is limited to the items as to which ‘there is a reasonable basis to believe will assist the defendant’s defense.’ A DWI defendant cannot require the court to compel the state to reveal information which merely could lead to other information that is relevant.”
The court reasoned that based on the decision in Chun, the Alcotest is well shielded from electromagnetic interference (EMI). The defense countered that although the Chun decision explicitly recognizes the Alcotest is well shielded against EMI it is not impervious to such interference. The court was not persuaded by the argument particularly in light of the states, “valid security interest in discouraging routine access by civilian visitors to the interior of police facilities.”
In the end, the court found that the defendant failed to present a case specific basis to justify the inspection request. This leaves open the question, “What facts would be necessary for a case specific basis to justify the inspection of the Alcotest room in a police station?” If you or someone you know is facing DWI or refusal charges in a New Jersey Municipal Court, contact the municipal court defense lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today. We are here to defend the charges against you. Contact us now for your confidential and free initial consultation. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350.