State Police are working to fix a glitch that a local attorney says could be translating to unfair sentences on some drunken-driving convictions.
Currently, the Alcotest - which replaced the Breathalyzer for determining whether a driver is legally drunk - analyzes the breath in two ways, and does each test twice. Those four numbers are then used to produce a fifth, final number. The law requires that the final result must fall within 5 percent of the other four numbers. But the Alcotest passes tests that are within 10 percent.
So the State Police have made an online calculator available to law enforcement to redo the math. However, the calculator cuts the results to three decimal places, even though the state Supreme Court ruled it should be calculated to four. That allows some tests to squeak into evidence when they shouldn't, Hammonton attorney Robert Pinizzotto said last week. Pinizzotto wants the State Police to stop using the calculator.
With an Alcotest that is deemed reliable, a first-time offender faces a seven-month license revocation as opposed to three months suspended without a good test.
"We actually were aware of the deficiency," State Police Capt. Gerald Lewis said Monday. "We're in the process of correcting it."
Last week, State Police would not comment on the issue, referring all comment on the issue to the Attorney General's Office. Lewis said Monday that the problem has been known for a while, but could not say when it would be fixed.
Pinizzotto suggested a first step would be to take down the calculator currently used "because it's not reliable."
"They should be requiring all law enforcement to do the calculation by hand," he said, adding that any defendants who had close results should have their readings checked.
The defense attorney did not find out about the glitch until recently because he has his own calculator. That calculator was used by Freehold attorney Lawrence Reynolds, who later called Pinizzotto to find out why his result differed from the State Police number.
Reynolds, who does not usually handle driving while intoxicated cases, said he ran the calculation 10 times, and kept getting a false result, even though the State Police deemed the test accurate.
Now, Reynolds hopes the State Police admission will help his case, which goes back to court March 15 in Sayreville, Middlesex County.
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