Confrontation Clause Cases (Part 13)

by | May 19, 2024 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate Division continued in relevant part: Except for Point III, each claim lacks merit. As to Point III, we conclude that the hearsay admission of the “Uniform Certification for Bodily Specimens Taken in a Medically Acceptable Manner,” (certification) without providing defendant with the opportunity to cross-examine the nurse who drew his blood, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-11, violated defendant’s right to confront witnesses under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I, paragraph 10 of the New Jersey Constitution. We reverse.

At approximately 2:17 a.m. on August 19, 2004, Officer Gordon Muller of the Franklin Township Police Department came upon a Ford Explorer that appeared to recently have been in an accident. He observed a mailbox and street signs that had been “run over,” a telephone pole broken in half hanging by its wires, and tire tracks leading from the roadway into the grass where the vehicle was positioned. Officer Muller determined that the tire tracks were freshly-made. The Explorer was resting against a tree on the lawn of a residential property.

Officer Muller found defendant in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, and detected the odor of alcohol on his breath. Defendant appeared disoriented and was unable to comply with Muller’s request to provide identification. Muller asked him whether anybody else was in the vehicle, to which defendant answered in the negative. Muller never asked whether defendant was driving the vehicle when it crashed, nor did he inquire as to what had caused the accident. Muller called for assistance, and ten minutes later defendant was removed from the vehicle and transported to Cooper Hospital in Camden, and Muller followed in his vehicle. Upon arrival, Muller asked registered nurse Marico Deal to draw blood from defendant for testing. She did so, utilizing the blood alcohol kit provided by Muller. When Deal asked defendant to sign a document consenting to the extraction of his blood, he did not respond.
Muller observed Deal remove a non-alcohol swab from the blood test kit and use the swab to prepare defendant’s right arm for the drawing of blood. He watched as she filled the two vials that would ultimately be tested. She used the gray tops contained with the kit to close the vials, and handed both to Muller after writing defendant’s name on the adhesive labels. Muller placed them into the box provided with the kit, attached “integrity seals” to the outside, and affixed his initials.
Before Muller left Cooper Hospital, Deal provided him with a document entitled “Uniform Certification for Bodily Specimens Taken in a Medically Acceptable Manner,” pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-10, 11.

The opinion references a “non-alcohol swab” from the transcript of the trial testimony. Alcohol swabs are not supposed to be used as part of a blood-draw process since they can skew the results of the blood alcohol testing.