The Validity of the Alcotest

The Supreme Court has now issued its long awaited opinion on the validity of the Alcotest, which a few years ago replaced the Breathalyzer in most counties in the State.

The Alcotest is a computer-programmed machine that takes breath samples from drivers suspected of driving while intoxicated and calculates the blood alcohol level of the suspect. The members of the Court in State v. Chun found that the machine is more reliable than the breathalyzer because it has less to do with human operation and more with the programmed functions contained in the machine itself.

There are a number of complex factors related to this machine and its read-outs that every defense attorney has to be familiar with in order to properly represent his or her client. The Alcotest is capable of error, and to determine if an error has been made, defense counsel needs to review such procedures relating to calibration, timing of the two or more breath samples taken, and qualification of the administrator.

Again, for a first offense, a driver is looking at a loss of license from three to twelve months. For a second offense, there is a loss of license for two years, and potential jail time of anywhere from two to ninety days. Finally, for a third offense, there is a loss of license for ten years, and mandatory jail time for six months.