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DWI Warrant Rule

January 27, 2015 | Posted In Drunk Driving - DUI/DWI |

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Missouri v. McNeely, which stated that police and law enforcement officials must obtain a search warrant before demanding a blood or urine sample from a suspected drunk driver. This federal precedent has helped set the stage for state courts to require the same warrants in drunk driving investigations and has cut down on the number of illegally obtained physical samples from traffic stops. Now, the New Jersey Supreme Court justices are determining whether this precedent should be applied retroactively to cases prior to 2013, DUI attorneys in New Jersey report.

In this deliberation, the state Supreme Court heard two sets of cases, both of which involve alleged drunk drivers who had been stopped and asked to provide physical samples for analysis. In the first case, State v. Adkins, Timothy Adkins was arrested in December of 2010, after he ran his car into a utility pole. Adkins failed to pass any of the field sobriety tests administered by officers on the scene, and he was taken into custody. Two hours after his arrest, Adkins was taken to the hospital, where police took a blood sample that revealed his blood alcohol content was .157, almost twice the legal limit.

The second case, State v. Verpent, was from December of 2008. The defendant, Kenneth Verpent, was arrested after his tow truck hit the car of a woman waiting at a toll plaza by the George Washington Bridge. Investigators estimated that Verpent was traveling at 27-33 miles per hour when he struck the other vehicle. The officer on the scene reported that although he did not see evidence of Verpent’s intoxication, Verpent was “a mess,” and did not pass the field sobriety tests. He passed a Breathalyzer test at the police station and refused to give a blood sample. He did provide a urine sample, which provided evidence of cocaine and marijuana. At trial, Verpent attempted to suppress the urine test results on the grounds that no warrant had been obtained.

Violation of Rights?

The Appellate Division upheld the urine and blood samples in both cases, and both Verpent and Adkins were convicted for DUI/DWI charges. Now, the state Supreme Court is set to decide whether the ruling in the federal 2013 case makes the actions of the police in 2008 and 2010 unconstitutional in violation of Adkins’ and Verpent’s rights. Additionally, in Adkins’ case, he was never asked to use a Breathalyzer, he did not consent to the blood sample and there was no evidence of an emergency scenario that would have prompted police officers to take him to the hospital where the blood sample was obtained.

If the state Supreme Court decides to apply the 2013 warrant rule to these two cases, more DUI/DWI charges based on warrantless blood and urine samples may be forthcoming soon. At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our lawyers represent drivers who have been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and whose personal evidence may have been improperly obtained. To discuss your case, call HCK today.  

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