DUI Blood Draw Due To Exigent Circumstances
- September 6, 2015
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Donna Jones was suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) at the time she caused a three car accident, resulting in injury to herself and another, by rear ending a car stopped at a light then striking a second car immediately in front of the first before her vehicle came to rest. As a result of the accident, Jones was unconscious. Although officers were alerted by EMTs to an odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from Jones’ breath at the scene, no field sobriety testing was possible due to her condition. Jones was transported to the hospital for treatment after emergency personnel extracted her from her vehicle. At the hospital Jones remained unconscious for some time and was despondent upon regaining consciousness. An officer requested that blood be extracted from Jones without a warrant and the resultant blood alcohol content (BAC) reading was .345 percent. Jones was indicted for fourth-degree assault by auto (N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(c)(2)) and issued summonsed for DUI (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50) and reckless driving (N.J.S.A. 39:4-96). In Missouri v. McNeely, ___ U.S.___, 133 S. Ct. 1552, 185 L. Ed. 2d 696 (2013), a driver was arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) as a result of a routine traffic stop and U.S. Supreme Court determined that the natural metabolization of alcohol in an individual’s bloodstream does not, without more, constitute exigent circumstances giving rise to the ability of police to forego the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment and withdraw a blood sample without consent. Pursuant to the holding in McNeely and the fact that there was no proof police were unable to obtain a warrant under the particular facts of the case, the trial court suppressed Jones’ blood alcohol content (BAC) reading. On appeal, in State v. Jones, the State argued that McNeely should not have been applied retroactively in this case where the incident occurred but the case was decided after McNeely. The NJ Appellate division determined the trial judge erred in his application of the standard required under McNeely and Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966), and held that the BAC results of Jones should not have been suppressed. In State v. Dyal, 97 N.J. 229, 238 (1984), New Jersey courts held it legal to obtain a blood sample without the need for a warrant as long as there was a reasonable belief the driver was intoxicated and the blood was withdrawn “in a medically acceptable manner…without the use of excessive force.” The NJ Appellate Division did consider McNeely in determining that it is a given that a person’s BAC does dissipate once the alcohol is fully absorbed into the blood stream and declines over time until it is fully metabolized thus creating a need for drawing blood to preserve evidence of intoxication. The decision of the trial court with regard to suppression of the BAC results was reversed. If you are convicted of DUI you face serious penalties including loss of license for up to 10 years, incarceration for up to 180 days and substantial fines. You should obtain an experienced DUI attorney immediately to help fight your case. For more information about DWI, drug DUI, CDS in a motor vehicle, blood and urine testing, reckless driving, refusal to submit to a breath test or other serious motor vehicle offenses in NJ visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.