NJ Warrantless Blood Draw 2018
In this case, we consider whether police officers violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution when they took a sample of defendant’s blood without a warrant during an investigation of alleged driving while intoxicated (DWI).
Defendant Shayna Zalcberg was driving in Freehold Township when her vehicle, containing two passengers, struck another. The collision resulted in a serious accident. Emergency assistance was required, and all three occupants of defendant’s vehicle were transported to a hospital via helicopter. One of defendant’s passengers died from his injuries.
Police arrived at the scene and determined there was probable cause to believe that alcohol had contributed to the collision. As a result, one of the officers went to the hospital to obtain a sample of defendant’s blood. At no time was there discussion of procuring a warrant before ordering the blood draw. Defendant was later charged with second-degree vehicular homicide and assault by auto. Defendant moved to suppress the results of the warrantless blood draw as violative of the Fourth Amendment. The trial court granted the motion, finding that the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement did not apply here; the Appellate Division affirmed substantially for the reasons expressed by the trial court.
We conclude that the totality of the circumstances evince an objective exigency, relaxing the need for a warrant and rendering the officer’s warrantless blood draw constitutional. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Division and remand this matter to the trial court.