TRENTON – Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Peter Barnes III and L. Grace Spencer, citing the “uncertainty” of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision disallowing the taking of blood samples in DUI investigations without a warrant, are introducing legislation to clarify the law.
“Thousands of pending DUI cases could be in jeopardy and DUI enforcement in the future may be greatly hindered due to this decision,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).
The lawmakers said that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeely was a “real setback” for NJ police in DUI investigations. The McNeely case involved the “involuntary” taking of a blood sample by police in Missouri after the suspect refused to give consent to taking a breath test.
Gusciora noted, however, while most police officers in New Jersey simply charge the suspect with “DUI refusal” in that instance, there are other circumstances where police need to resort to the taking of blood or urine in their investigations.
“For instance, when there is a car accident and the suspect is unable to give a breath sample due to being hospitalized or in the instance where alcohol has been ruled out in a DUI investigation and drugs are a suspected factor, it is then critical for our law enforcement officers to take a urine or blood sample to determine what affected the suspect’s driving skills,” said Gusciora. “That is now hampered by the U.S. Supreme Court decision, which may require a warrant or court order to obtain such samples.”
“As a society, we have made great strides over the years combating DUI’s by giving law enforcement the training they need to recognize offenders. We now need corresponding laws to prosecute these cases and let the public know that there are no loopholes to DUI laws” said Barnes (D-Middlesex).
The bill they are introducing would amend the state’s “implied consent law” that requires every New Jersey motorist to submit to a breath sample in the event that driving under the influence is suspected. The proposal would allow police to also take blood and/or urine samples in certain instances where the taking of a breath sample is hampered or drugs is suspected in affecting the driver’s performance.
“Current New Jersey case law allows our officers to take blood and urine samples in limited and emergent circumstances,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “Unfortunately, the Roberts’ Court has thrown that all up in the air. This bill aims to resolve the uncertainties with DUI enforcement in the future.”
The catalyst for the legislation stems from the fear that the time required for law enforcement personnel to first obtain a warrant or court order for a blood or urine sample would allow thousands of DUI suspects to simply be let go.
“Additionally, this would needlessly divert police resources from our streets, making them less safe from the threat of drunk drivers on the road,” added Gusciora.
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