If you are stopped on suspicion of a DWI offense in NJ, you’ll most likely have to give a breath sample by blowing into an Alcotest machine. So, what is an Alcotest?
An Alcotest is a device used to test alcohol levels in a person’s breath. Though there are different versions, the Alcotest 7110 machine was approved by the NJ Supreme Court and is used by all New Jersey municipalities to determine the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the defendant.
Let’s look at how Alcotests work, its accuracy, and its role in a DWI charge in New Jersey.
How does the Alcotest 7110 machine Work?
The Alcotest 7110 machine analyzes breath two ways using an infrared radiation test and an electrochemical test. When you blow air into it, it traps the breath sample in a chamber and then shoots infrared light from one end of the chamber to the other. This process allows the unit to detect the absorption rate of the breath sample.
The more ethanol in your breath, the more infrared light is absorbed. The built-in software then runs the absorption results from the chamber to determine the amount of ethanol in your breath.
The Alcotest 7110 machine automatically runs an electrochemical test afterwards. Like a battery, ethanol generates electricity via a chemical reaction between oxygen and alcohol. The alcohol in the breath sample is chemically oxidized while the oxygen is reduced at the anode and cathode, respectively. The reaction produces electrons that flow between the cathode and anode. The higher the breath alcohol, the more electrons will flow, hence a higher BAC reading.
If the infrared and electrochemical tests are within an acceptable deviation range, the machine displays your final blood alcohol level reading.
Is the Alcotest 7110 Breathalyzer Accurate?
Yes, it is, and that’s why the New Jersey Supreme Court approved its use. However, though it was deemed scientifically reliable, its operability can be challenged in any case. The NJ Supreme court set strict conditions for equipment maintenance and administration of the breath test. These can be challenged in every case.
Some rules that must be followed to guarantee scientifically reliable BAC readings include:
- Proper maintenance and cleanliness of the instrument
- The device was used by certified personnel
- Calibration of the Alcotest 7110 machine before a breath test
- Timeliness of test administration. There should be a 20 minute deprivation period before collecting samples to keep the individual from burping or vomiting and a two-minute lockout between samples to avoid cross-contamination and inaccurate breath test results.
All in all, the 7110 Breathalyzer is a sensitive Alcotest machine that needs proper handling. If you ever question the administration of the Breathalyzer results or your BAC, you should call the Law Offices of Christopher L. Baxter (one of the best DUI defense attorneys) for a free consultation.
What is the difference between a breath test and blood test?
The difference between the two is in the method of testing. A breath device measures your breath alcohol level and performs a calculation to convert it to a blood alcohol level based on a scientific equation. A blood draw directly measures the alcohol level in the subject’s blood.
Can I refuse a Breathalyzer in New Jersey?
No, you cannot. According to the New Jersey Refusal Law and the New Jersey Implied Consent Law, you agree to take chemical urine, blood, or breath test when you get behind a wheel and drive.
Refusal and offense penalties:
- $300 minimum fine
- Installation of an ignition interlock device for 9-15 months
- Insurance surcharges and more
- $500+ fine
- 1-2 year license suspension
- Installation of an ignition interlock device for 2-4 years
- Insurance surcharges
- $1000 fine
- Eight years license suspension
- Installation of an ignition interlock device for 12-14 years
- Insurance surcharges
Do Miranda rights apply to the breath test?
An officer doesn’t have to recite your Miranda rights before administering a breathalyzer test. This is because, you have no legal right to have a DWI defense attorney present during the test.
However, police officers should inform you of the penalties that apply when you refuse to take the test. At that point, you’ll need to give a clear and straightforward response.
What actions establish refusing a Breathalyzer?
Refusal to test is more than saying ‘no’. It also includes:
- Explicit refusal or silence – you do not have the luxury of remaining silent in this situation because silence is taken as a refusal of testing.
- Conditional or ambiguous responses – your answer cannot have a condition like needing a cell phone or speaking to a friend.
- Giving short samples – if you blow short samples into the Alcotest 7110, they don’t count because insufficient sample air affects the reading. Law enforcement officers can interpret it as refusal.
- Delayed testing – a DWI defendant needs to take the Draeger Alcotest within reasonable timeframes.
- Few breath samples – a minimum of two breath samples are necessary to guarantee the Alcotest machine accuracy. If you don’t submit to this, it’s taken as refusal.
Can I Beat A Refusal Charge?
New Jersey’s implied consent to chemical tests leaves some room for a refusal defense. A refusal charge may be challenged in the following instances:
- Prove that you were unclear or confused about your rights. A law enforcement officer must read a statement explaining why you should provide the samples and what happens if you refuse.
- If the officer doesn’t read it, then you could be acquitted.
- If your English is limited, a defense attorney might argue that you didn’t understand what the law enforcement officer said. Moreover, if you were in shock after an accident, it could be argued that you weren’t aware enough to understand.
- For medical reasons. If you have a pulmonary illness like emphysema or severe asthma, you may not be able to provide adequate breath samples.
Navigate The Alcotest Refusal law with an expert law firm
While you can refuse to take the Alcotest, it’s risky, and the court might use this choice against you. When you are charged with refusal in New Jersey, the stakes are too high to handle on your own in court.
It’s best to have DWI defense attorneys who understand New Jersey law surrounding refusal and DWI cases. At the Law Offices of Christopher L. Baxter, we’ve repeatedly shown the experience to handle complex DWI and refusal cases.
Give us a call today at (856) 235-9881 for a free consultation.