New Jersey court officials and prosecutors are scrambling to devise a system to review up to 20,667 drunken-driving cases imperiled by a state Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday, NJ Advance Media reports. The ruling, based on a state police official’s alleged failure to re-calibrate Alcotest blood-alcohol testing devices, does not automatically void all of the convictions and charges in affected cases. Instead, while it is likely that many cases will be thrown out, all defendants will be notified and then must file challenges depending on whether their cases are pre-trial or post-conviction. The State Police test machines for local law enforcement, so authorities have identified a huge pool of cases in five counties between 2008 and 2016 that are now compromised. Most of those cases have already gone through the court system, though an unknown number were still pending when authorities disclosed the problems. Appeals for those cases were put on hold pending the Supreme Court case, but now the floodgates are open.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said his office was “still coming up with guidance for our county prosecutors and municipal prosecutors who handle many of these cases.” The Supreme Court put New Jersey’s Administrative Office of the Courts in charge of overseeing how things play out from here. Peter McAleer, a spokesman for the judiciary, said the high court approved a “centralized approach to the management of cases” affected by the ruling” and that a plan for sorting things out was “under review.” Normally, a person would have five years to challenge their conviction. But the Supreme Court noted in its decision that state authorities waited nearly a year to disclose the allegations against the state police sergeant, so it waived that time limit “in the interests of justice.”