Confrontation Clause Cases (Part 24)

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate Division continued in relevant part: At about 1:35 a.m. on March 18, 2005, defendant Adam J. Kent lost control of his Lincoln automobile while driving on Rae Avenue in Hawthorne. The Lincoln jumped a curb and flipped over onto its roof, landing in the front yard of a residence on Pasadena Place. Parts of the Lincoln were strewn across the roadway and the surrounding area.

Officer James Knepper of the Hawthorne Police Department was dispatched to the accident scene, and he arrived there by approximately 1:40 a.m. Officer Knepper observed the upside-down Lincoln and the surrounding debris on both the west and east sides of Pasadena Place. He also noted tire marks on a curb and across a driveway leading to a snow pile. According to the officer’s testimony, the road surface was dry and there was no precipitation.

The officer also saw a person, later identified as defendant, standing next to the Lincoln. Defendant’s hair was mussed and his clothes were dirty. The officer asked him whether he was injured. Defendant replied that he was not. The officer then asked defendant if he was the driver and whether there was anyone else in the vehicle. Defendant acknowledged that he was the driver and sole occupant.

At that point defendant asked Officer Knepper if he could retrieve his cell phone from the Lincoln. According to Knepper’s trial testimony, the officer then smelled “an odor of an alcoholic beverage on defendant’s breath,” and noticed that defendant’s eyes were watery and bloodshot. The officer also noted that defendant was slurring his words and walking very slowly. These observations, as well as the apparently violent nature of the accident, caused the officer to ask defendant if he had drunk any alcoholic beverages that evening. Defendant told the officer that “he only had five beers.”

The Defense likely argued that any claim of slurred speech or slow walking was due to being in the car accident. The alleged smell of alcohol and admission to consuming five beers tend to undermine that argument.