Alcotest Calibration Thermometers (Part 2)

by | Nov 16, 2018 | Blog, Criminal Law, DUI, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

refusing a breathalyzerJustice Timpone continued: Marc W. Dennis, a coordinator in the New Jersey State Police’s Alcohol Drug Testing Unit, was tasked with performing the semi-annual calibrations on Alcotest instruments used in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, and Union Counties. He is charged with neglecting to take required measurements and having falsely certified that he followed the calibration procedures. Dennis was indicted in 2016 for failing to use a NIST traceable thermometer to measure the temperature of simulator solutions used to calibrate Alcotest devices. When Dennis was criminally charged, the Attorney General’s Office notified the Administrative Office of the Courts that evidential breath samples from 20,667 people were procured using Alcotest machines calibrated by Dennis.

Defendant Eileen Cassidy, now deceased, pleaded guilty in municipal court to driving under the influence based solely on Alcotest results showing her blood alcohol level had exceeded the legal limit.  Upon learning that the results of her test were among those called into question by Dennis’s alleged falsifications, she moved to withdraw her guilty plea. The Attorney General moved for direct certification. The Court granted the motion and remanded the case to retired Appellate Division Presiding Judge Joseph F. Lisa as Special Master to determine whether “the failure to test the simulator solutions with the NIST traceable digital thermometer before calibrating an Alcotest machine would undermine or call into question the scientific reliability of breath tests subsequently performed on the Alcotest machine.” 230 N.J. 232, 232-33 (2017).

After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the Special Master issued a 198-page report in which he concluded that failure to use a thermometer that produces NIST-traceable temperature readings in the calibration process undermines the reliability of the Alcotest and that the State failed to carry its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the Alcotest was scientifically reliable without a NIST-traceable temperature check. The Special Master’s report is appended to the Court’s opinion.

It seems the only way that Trooper Dennis’s falsifications would have become known would have been if someone in law enforcement or working closely with law enforcement informed on him. It would be interesting to know their motivations.