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Warrants Required

June 19, 2015 | Posted In Drunk Driving - DUI/DWI

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that any DUI/DWI case currently in the state’s courtrooms must be in compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 2013 regarding blood samples and search warrant requirements. The ruling from the original case, Missouri v. McNeely, states that police officers are required to obtain search warrants before taking blood samples from suspects in drunk or drugged driving investigations.

A Look at Adkins

Timothy Adkins was arrested in December of 2010 after running into a utility pole. He failed the field sobriety tests and was ultimately arrested. Two hours after the stop, police had a blood sample taken from Adkins at a hospital without his consent or obtaining a warrant.

His blood alcohol content was .157 percent, close to twice the legal limit. However, a judge ruled that the sample was inadmissible because it was not legally obtained. The case went to the Appellate Court and finally the state Supreme Court, for an ultimate decision.

New Standards

Because alcohol dissipates from the bloodstream of an intoxicated person, this can sometimes make it difficult for police officers to obtain physical evidence of intoxication during a traffic stop or arrest. However, in McNeely, the U.S. Supreme Court set the standard for obtaining blood samples in such cases—officers need to obtain a warrant before they can take a sample from a suspect.

Based on this standard, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling to apply the McNeely standard to any case in New Jersey currently pending trial or appeal. If a blood sample was drawn and used as evidence, a warrant must have been obtained first. Simply stated -- these samples cannot be obtained as part of a warrantless search.

Justice Jaynee LaVecchia wrote for the court in State v. Adkins that the McNeely ruling holds that dissipation of alcohol from the bloodstream is only one factor in the case for exigency, but not the only factor, and as such, cannot be used to excuse the warrant requirement. The U.S. Supreme Court “has pronounced the standard to be applied under the Fourth Amendment to warrantless searches,” she said.

The court did rule that, in probable cause hearings in the lower courts, great weight could be given to considering reasonable belief on the part of the officers involved that the blood samples needed to be drawn before obtaining a warrant. In these circumstances, dissipation of the alcohol level in the person’s bloodstream could be “given substantial weight” as a factor in determining whether the officers acted out of necessity.

Protect Your Rights

Your personal rights do not change no matter what criminal charges you face, and if your case is not handled correctly, you could suffer negative consequences such as fines, charges and even jail time for a conviction based on false or ill-obtained evidence.

To protect yourself and ensure your rights are not being violated, contact a New Jersey DUI/DWI lawyer at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, to handle your case. Our HCK team represents anyone who is facing drunk or drugged driving charges, especially those who feel their arrests or investigations have been mishandled.

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