Breath Tests and “Reasonable Time”

Prosecutions of DWI cases requires that the breathalyzer test be administered within a reasonable time after a defendant is stopped for drunk driving. Judge Haines discussed this issue in State v. DiFrancisco, 232 N.J. Super 317 (Law Div. 1988). “One required proof as to the proper administration of the test is that it be performed within reasonable time after the defendant has been stopped for drunk driving. The State must supply this proof by clear and convincing evidence. In this case the test was given as much as 3 hours and 50 minutes after the drunk driving occurred, unless the defendant was ‘driving’ at the time of arrest at 3:10 a.m. In either case the State was obliged to prove that the test was given within a reasonable time. This court, absent such proof, has no way of knowing what time is reasonable, a conclusion that must depend on a variety of facts, such as time and the amount of alcohol consumption. The State presented no testimony on that issue and therefore failed to carry the burden of proof, therefore making the breathalyzer test results inadmissible.”

Therefore, it appears that a reasonable time after the defendant is stopped is a totality of the circumstances analysis based on the specific facts of each case. Moreover, the State has the burden of proving that the test was given within a reasonable time.