New Jersey Court Explains Exigent Circumstances Permitting a Warrantless Blood Draw in DWI Cases

In New Jersey, when a person is suspected of DWI, the police must obtain either a warrant or the person’s permission prior to obtaining a blood sample. In certain instances, however, the police may obtain a blood sample absent consent or the authority to do so from a judge. The circumstances under which a warrantless blood draw may be conducted were recently discussed in a New Jersey appeal in which the defendant was convicted of aggravated manslaughter. If you are a New Jersey resident currently charged with a DWI crime, it is wise to speak to a New Jersey DWI defense attorney about the rights you are afforded under the law.

History of the Case

It is reported that a police officer responded to the scene of an accident where he learned that two young girls who were walking down the side of a road were struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant. When the officer spoke with the defendant, he appeared to be impaired, in that he smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes. He was asked to submit to field sobriety tests, which he failed. The officer then noticed that the defendant’s right hand was injured and transported the defendant to the hospital for medical care.

Allegedly, while the defendant was at the hospital, a blood draw was conducted that revealed the presence of prescription anxiety and pain pills and a BAC of 0.183%. The officer involved was not trained in administering a breath test. The two girls involved in the accident died, and the defendant was charged with aggravated manslaughter. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of his blood test, which was denied. He then pled guilty, and following his sentencing, appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motion.

Exigent Circumstances Permitting a Warrantless Blood Draw

On appeal, the court noted that under the prevailing case law, a warrant must be obtained prior to drawing blood from a defendant in order for a blood draw to be lawful unless exigent circumstances are present. Whether exigency existed must be evaluated based on a totality of the circumstances. In the subject case, the court found that the officers involved in the investigation of the incident credibly testified that the scene was chaotic and that they had concerns regarding the defendant’s health due to injuries caused by the accident. Further, they had difficulty obtaining a warrant, and by the time a warrant would have been granted, the alcohol in the defendant’s blood would have dissipated. Thus, the court found that there was sufficient evidence of exigent circumstances to permit a warrantless blood draw.

Discuss Your Charges with a Skillful New Jersey DWI Defense Attorney

If you are charged with DWI penalties in New Jersey, you should speak to an attorney to discuss your potential defenses. The skillful New Jersey DWI defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are adept at defending people charged with DWI crimes, and we will work diligently to help you pursue the best outcome available under the circumstances. You can contact us at 877-450-8301 or via the form online to schedule meeting.

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