Confrontation Clause Cases (Part 25)

by | Jun 12, 2024 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The three-judge panel continued in relevant part: Defendant’s admission that he had consumed five beers and the other observed characteristics of him and the accident scene led the officer to conclude that defendant was intoxicated. The officer issued Miranda warnings, and placed defendant in the back of the patrol car. The officer explained at trial that he did not request defendant to perform field sobriety tests, “due to the nature of the crash” and his concerns about defendant’s “safety and possible internal injuries.” In discussing the accident with Officer Knepper, defendant contended that his car had slid while rounding a curve, causing him to lose control.

Emergency medical personnel were summoned. When they arrived, they placed defendant in a neck brace and put him on a back board. The crew members placed defendant into an ambulance and transported him to the emergency room at the nearby Valley Hospital in Ridgewood. Officer Knepper followed the ambulance to the hospital. Upon arrival, he helped the crew remove defendant from the ambulance.

The officer noticed that, once the ambulance crew began attending to him, defendant’s demeanor changed from “cooperative” to “antagonistic”. According to the officer, defendant demanded to have the neck brace removed and to be taken off the back board. His antagonism surfaced again at the hospital emergency room, fluctuating with moments of cooperation.

Because of the nature of the crash and his perception of defendant’s intoxication, Officer Knepper asked hospital staff to draw blood from defendant. That request was documented in a written form, which the officer signed and handed to Roger Gallant, an emergency room employee. Gallant then extracted two vials of blood from defendant in the presence of Officer Knepper. The officer watched Gallant prepare the extraction site, one of defendant’s arms, using what the officer described as “some type of alcohol wipe prior to administering a needle.” The blood was placed into the vials, which Gallant labeled. The vials came out of a sealed package. Officer Knepper did not recall whether the vials were shaken. He had no knowledge of whether the vials contained the appropriate preservatives.

The line of questions asked of the witness at the trial level parallels the expert testimony in State v. Renshaw. This witness gives the impression that he was not well-versed in blood draw procedures. Otherwise, he would have taken care to not suggest that an alcohol swab may have been used at the hospital as part of the blood draw. Use of an alcohol swab can cause false positives and/or elevated levels for blood alcohol content.