Confrontation Clause Cases (Part 35)

by | Jul 2, 2024 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The three-judge panel continued in relevant part: Likewise, we recently decided in State v. Renshaw, that a hospital nurse’s blood sample certification under is testimonial under Crawford. In Renshaw, as here, a private hospital employee was asked by a police officer to draw blood from a suspected drunk driver. The employee did so, using a kit supplied by the police officer. The employee then provided two vials of extracted blood to the officer, along with a signed certification pursuant to. Following the reasoning of Berezansky and other post-Crawford case law, we determined that the blood certification was testimonial because it had been prepared “solely to be used” as evidence in a prospective court proceeding against the driver. We therefore reversed the defendant’s DWI conviction because he had been deprived of an opportunity to cross-examine the nurse who had signed the certification.

We now reaffirm our analysis in Renshaw. The blood sample certification executed by Roger Gallant in the case at bar was not prepared to assist police with an “ongoing emergency.” Although one might theoretically conceive of the need to analyze defendant’s blood as emergent in nature because of the bodily absorption and dissipation of alcohol, the circumstances at the hospital do not bespeak the kind of emergency depicted in Davis. In Davis, the declarant, a 9-1-1 caller, was seeking an immediate police response to a domestic violence incident. In this regard, we liken the circumstances here to the companion case decided with Davis, Hammon v. Indiana, in which the Court held there was no “ongoing emergency” by the time police had arrived at the residence of a couple involved in a domestic incident and their hostilities had subsided.

Additionally, the “primary purpose” of the blood certificate was surely to preserve evidence for a future anticipated DWI prosecution. The samples were not extracted for purposes of medical treatment. The legislative purpose behind the blood sampling statute, which includes the certificate process, could not be plainer in this respect:

When individuals taken into custody for driving while intoxicated or death by auto refuse or are unable to provide breath samples for testing to determine blood alcohol content, police officers frequently seek the assistance of medical personnel. These personnel are often reluctant to take specimens out of a concern that the subject may institute civil or criminal charges for assault and that they will be required to appear in court to testify about the manner and circumstances under which the sample was taken. The purpose of Senate Bill No. 1089 is to encourage medical personnel to cooperate with law enforcement officials in obtaining these samples.

The reference to the samples not being extracted for purposes of medical treatment was likely in response to one of the State’s hearsay exception arguments. That exception requires a statement to be made for purposes of medical treatment is Rule 803(c)(4).