NEWARK (CBSNewYork) – More than 20,000 drunk driving convictions could be thrown out in New Jersey.
The state supreme court ruled Tuesday that criminal charges against a police sergeant who operated breathalyzer devices makes the test results inadmissible.
For many, a DWI conviction can be paralyzing: License revoked, a criminal record for job interviews, and many other consequences.
The unanimous decision by New Jersey’s supreme court could cause more than 20,000 drunk driving convictions to be vacated.
The justices found that criminal charges against Sgt. Marc Dennis, who was in charge of calibrating breath testing devices made the results from five counties inadmissible, including Middlesex, Monmouth, Union, Ocean and Somerset.
In 2016, Dennis was accused of not using a thermometer to check that a control solution on the instrument was at body temperature. If the control solution doesn’t work correctly, the results may not be accurate, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported.
“With respect to this individual, Sgt. Dennis, he is the subject of a pending criminal case. He will be held accountable,” said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
Grewal says he is still processing the ruling.
“We’ll be coming out with guidance for out county prosecutors who handle many of these cases,” Grewal said.
He says his office will work with the courts to notify the affected defendants.
That doesn’t mean every case will be thrown out, and the ruling does not resolve pending cases.
Grewal says it only address the admissibility of the test results, allowing people to challenge their conviction based on that piece of evidence.
“On a broader level, we work too hard at they attorney general’s office, across the state, to build trust in our system, in the criminal justice system, so whenever and wherever it is undermined it’s troubling to me,” he said.
Grewal says he is working to restore that trust.
Sgt. Dennis has denied any wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty to records tampering and other charges.