TRENTON — New Jersey has moved closer to possibly throwing out 20,600 drunk driving cases tied to a state trooper accused of failing to calibrate a breath test device years ago.

The state Supreme Court last month appointed a panel of four retired Superior Court judges to review the cases. The four will serve as Municipal Court judges with statewide jurisdiction.

The top court last year sided with a judge who concluded that the failure to properly calibrate the breathalyzer "calls into question subsequent validity of breath test results."

As many as 20,600 cases from Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset and Union counties have been tied to devices that should have been calibrated by State Police Sgt. Marc Dennis from 2009 to 2016. Dennis pleaded not guilty to tampering and falsifying records.

The decision last year was from a case initiated by the late Eileen Cassidy, who was charged with driving under the influence in Spring Lake. Cassidy tried to withdraw her guilty plea after she learned about the potential problems with the device calibration. Cassidy died before the Supreme Court ruling, which held that the thermometer used in the calibration has to be properly inspected and functioning before the Alcotest reading can be used as evidence in court.

County prosecutors two year ago began informing people whose DWI cases may be affected by this controversy.

In 2017, the state Supreme Court appointed a retired Superior Court judge to determine whether the cases could potentially be dismissed as a result of being linked to one of the devices that Dennis calibrated. In May 2018, the judge concluded that the test results could not be trusted.

“The likelihood of an undetected miscalculation is not great, but it is reasonably plausible,” Joseph Lisa said.

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