STATE v. DONNA JONES, 441 N.J.Super. 317 (App. Div. 2015)

In Missouri v. McNeely, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 1552, 185 L. Ed. 2d 696 (2013), the United States Supreme Court considered whether "the natural metabolization of alcohol in the bloodstream presents a per se exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood testing in all drunk-driving cases." Id. at ___, 133 S. Ct. at 1556, 185 L. Ed. 2d at 702 (emphasis added). Concluding that fact alone did not present a "per se exigency," the Supreme Court held, "consistent with general Fourth Amendment principles, that exigency in this context must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances." Ibid. This matter was summarily remanded to us by the Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of the Court's decision in State v. Adkins, 221 N.J. 300 (2015), holding that the totality of the circumstances analysis described in McNeely should be given pipeline retroactivity.

 

In our earlier decision, we reviewed the United States Supreme Court's analysis in McNeely and discussion of its holding in Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 771-72, 86 S. Ct. 1826, 1836, 16 L. Ed. 2d 908, 920 (1966). We concluded "the application of McNeely to the facts of this case" did not warrant the suppression of the blood test results. Jones, supra, 437 N.J. Super. at 75-78.

 

This was not a routine DWI case in which the dissipation of blood alcohol was the sole basis for determining an exigency existed. To the contrary, defendant caused a multiple vehicle accident at a busy intersection and crashed into a building, raising concern the building would collapse. Numerous police, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel responded to the scene, where the investigation took hours. It took one-half hour to extricate defendant, who was unconscious, from her badly damaged vehicle. Both she and a passenger in another car had to be transported to the hospital.

 

Viewing the totality of the circumstances, we are satisfied that an objective exigency existed and that the officer "might reasonably have believed that he was confronted with an emergency, in which the delay necessary to obtain a warrant, under the circumstances, threatened 'the destruction of evidence[.]'" Schmerber, supra, 384 U.S. at 770, 86 S. Ct. at 1835, 16 L. Ed. 2d at 919-20 (citation omitted). We find no reason to disturb our prior decision reversing the order that suppressed the results of the blood sample analysis.