Generally, the police need a warrant to search a person, and searches conducted without a warrant are often unconstitutional. The courts have determined that blood draws in DWI cases constitute searches, and absent exigent circumstances, compulsory blood tests without warrants are impermissible. If the police take a blood sample from a person without a warrant or permission, it could result in a reversal of a DWI conviction based on the blood test, as demonstrated in a recent New Jersey ruling. If you are accused of a DWI crime, it is prudent to speak to an assertive New Jersey DWI defense lawyer to gauge your options.
The Defendant’s Charges
It is reported that the defendant struck a pedestrian after he was drinking at a bar. He immediately stopped, but the victim ultimately died due to the injuries sustained in the accident. When the police arrived at the scene, they described it as chaotic and found the defendant to be agitated and argumentative. He was taken to the police station, where he refused to submit to a field sobriety test. The police did not attempt to obtain a breath sample but placed the defendant under arrest and transported him to the hospital for a blood draw.
Allegedly, the defendant originally was uncooperative and asked to make a phone call, but his request was denied. He ultimately signed a consent form and gave a blood sample. He was charged with multiple offenses, including DWI and vehicular homicide. He moved to have the results of his blood draw suppressed, but his motion was denied. He pleaded guilty, and after his sentencing, he appealed.
Warrantless Blood Draws
On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the trial court erred in refusing to grant his motion to suppress the results of his blood test. The court noted that the trial court found that, considering the circumstances surrounding the defendant’s arrest, the police were in an emergency situation that required a warrantless blood draw. The court elaborated that the matter was distinguishable from a routine DWI stop, where exigent circumstances would not exist that excused a lack of warrant.
The appellate court ultimately disagreed with the trial court’s reasoning. The court explained that a warrantless search is invalid unless it falls under the exigent circumstances exception. In determining whether the exception applies, a court will examine the seriousness of the crime, the urgency of the situation, and the threat that the evidence will be destroyed. Further, if an officer can reasonably obtain a warrant, he or she must do so. In the subject case, the court found that the only urgency in the matter was caused by the police officer’s delay. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling.
Meet with a Seasoned New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney
Many people who are charged with a first offense DWI can face significant penalties if they are convicted, and it is important for them to understand their options. If you are accused of committing a DWI crime, it is smart to meet with an attorney to determine your rights. The seasoned New Jersey DWI defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are proficient at defending people charged with driving while intoxicated, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our online form or at 877-450-8301 to set up a conference.