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Government

Blood alcohol device can't handle new date for time change

Solution: Cops, drunk drivers need to sit around for an hour and wait for the device to catch up to the right time.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on

When the new, early daylight savings time rolls around on Sunday, many computers and handheld devices are expected to have problems, requiring users to reset them by hand. But for New Jersey police, and especially for the drunk drivers they stop, the early time change will be a little more serious.

The Alcotest 7110 that NJ police use is not programmed to handle the alteration in daylight savings time, so police will have to wait an extra hour before administering the blood alcohol test, Star Ledger reports.

According to Attorney General's Office spokesman Peter Aseltine, this is the only way to deal with the problem, short of having cops enter false information in the machine, which "we did not want." The problem will resolve itself on April 1, the former day to change to daylight time.

After the time change, the officers will be unable to enter the correct time into the machine -- which they must do at the start of a test -- because the clock will be an hour behind. Even now, there is a 20-minute mandatory waiting period once an officer brings in a supected drunken driver. Now police will have to wait an additional hour on top of that.

Defense attorneys who have battled against the switch from Breathalyzer to Alcotel oppose the plan.

"It just shows how poorly the state deals with technology," said defense attorney Sam Sachs. "A stopped clock is right twice a day. But if your clock is wrong and you wait an hour, it's still wrong."

Cherry Hill attorney Evan Levow said the extra hour has the "potential of inflating somebody's true blood alcohol level" if the motorist had "a proverbial one or two for the road." That's because the driver's system would absorb more of the alcohol from those drinks than it would under the normal routine, he said. Robert Pandina, director of the Center for Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University, said this is misinformation. Alcohol absorption varies from 30 to 90 minutes for a drink of alcohol, but the rate is constant.

Another concern: Cops sitting around the station house instead of getting back on the street.

"That's going to be the upshot of it," said Mitchell Sklar, executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. "The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the state, so the procedure will be followed. But there are concerns about manpower and challenges to the test, because of the length of the delay."
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