No Defenses: Alcotest BAC of .08% = GUILTY – State v. Coppola
[07/14/09 – 2:52 pm] Yesterday, the Committee on Opinions authorized the publication of the Law Division case of State v. Coppola. In Coppola, the defendant entered a conditional plea of guilty in municipal court while the Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Chun, 194 N.J. 54 (2008) was still pending. Defendant’s conditional plea was based upon a BAC of .08% taken from an Alcotest. Following the publication of Chun, the defendant returned to municipal court and sought to vacate his plea based upon the Chun decision. The defendant argued that based upon Judge King’s Special Master’s Report, readings at the level of .08% and .10% BAC should not constitute conclusive evidence of guilt, but rather should be taken into consideration by the court in conjunction with clinical evidence of guilt. The defendant’s argument was rejected by the municipal court judge.
On appeal to the Law Division, the Court ruled that the Supreme Court has concluded that the Alcotest is scientifically reliable, subject to certain safeguards. Moreover, a BAC of .08% constitutes sufficient evidence by itself to constitute proof of a per se violation of NJSA 39:4-50(a) without regard to any clinical evidence.
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