What is that sad, semi-clever thing bartenders have been known to say at closing time?  “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”  Our days of being around at closing time are in the rear view mirror, growing tinier by the second.  We are unlikely ever again to reenact that greatest of all Sinatra songs, “One for My Baby” (“It’s quarter to three/there’s no one in the place except you and me”).  Odds are that at 2 am on any Saturday night, we will be deep asleep, enduring another of those dreams where we showed up late for our Contracts exam, naked and afraid.

This will be the third, and almost certainly last, post we do on the Johnson v. Draeger Safety Diagnostics, Inc. litigation, where a purported class challenged the accuracy of the Alcotest machine used in New Jersey to measure blood alcohol content for driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) arrests and prosecutions. In our first post, Three Dumb Legal Theories Walk Into a Bar, we reported how a New Jersey federal court rejected a claim brought by a pair of plaintiffs whose claim was basically that a defective Alcotest machine forced them to plead guilty to DWI. We thought the theory was wobbly, but let’s remind you of the background. The plaintiffs had been arrested for suspected drunk driving.  Both submitted to breath tests administered using the Alcotest device, which reported, for each, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above .08%. Alcotest readings are admissible in DWI prosecutions as evidence of a per se violation of the DWI statute. The plaintiffs each pleaded guilty to DWI. They did not challenge the Alcotest readings at that time, and the reason for that (we surmise), requires even more background. During the roll-out of the Alcotest, twenty individuals charged with DWI challenged the admissibility of their Alcotest results, and their cases were consolidated for consideration of the evidentiary challenge. The case was called Chun.  During the Chun case, a Vice-President of the company that manufactured the Alcotest testified that he was “100 percent convinced” that the device was capable of producing accurate readings; that he “strongly believed” that the device was scientifically reliable; and that no maintenance was needed other than verifying proper operation at the time when the unit is calibrated. In 2008, the Supreme Court of New Jersey concluded in the Chun case that the Alcotest was scientifically reliable and that its results would be admissible and could be used to prove a per se violation of the DWI statute.

Continue Reading Closing Time for the New Jersey Alcotest Product Liability Case