State of New Jersey v. Zoppy

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey issued an unpublished opinion in State of New Jersey v. Zoppy on April 15, 2014. Mr. Zoppy was located by police following a single car crash. The initial officer on the scene suspected Mr. Zoppy was intoxicated due to his erratic behavior but breath testing failed to indicate the presence of alcohol in his system. A second police officer that was a trained and certified drug recognition expert “DRE” was brought in and spent an hour testing Mr. Zoppy for indications of intoxication from drugs.

Mr. Zoppy was tried and convicted in a municipal court.  He appealed and during his second trial, the DRE officer testified to the testing he performed on Mr. Zoppy, to his training and his certification as a DRE. The court did not recognize him as an expert, although he was able to provide testimony as a lay witness to his belief that the defendant was intoxicated due to consumption of drugs. The defendant was again convicted. In his brief to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, the defendant raised the issue of whether “the trial court erred by accepting the "testing" advanced by the state where the drug influence evaluation is not scientific and carries no scientific weight and is insufficient to find a violation.” The appellate court affirmed the conviction. The court relied on a totality of the evidence analysis and did not find that the trial court had erred by admitting DRE testimony without first making a finding as to its reliability. This analysis in the Zoppy opinion differs from the analysis done by many state appellate courts which analyzed the reliability of DRE testimony as a prerequisite for its admission into evidence, see Cases Affirming the Use of DRE Protocol and DRE Testimony.

Vulnerable User Statutes

In a recent Issue Brief produced by the Traffic Resource Center for Judges, Gavel to Gavel blogger William Raftery examines how some states have specific statutes that impose increased penalties for motor vehicle crashes involving injury to pedestrians or cyclists. The last several years have seen over a dozen out of the 50 states enact or at least debate the creation of “vulnerable user” statutes that would elevate the criminal penalties for crashes involving such users. Interestingly, the definition of “vulnerable user” and what crimes are enhanced varies widely depending on the state.

Waukesha County v. Patel

On May 14, 2014 the Wisconsin Court of Appeal found that the result of a blood draw done in violation of Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013), are admissible under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule because police acted in conformity with clear, well-settled Wisconsin law that permitted the blood draw at the time it was done, even if the arresting officer didn’t cite that law in justifying the blood draw.

Citing McNeely, Patel moved to suppress the result of his blood test because his blood was drawn without a warrant and in the absence of exigent circumstances. But the law in effect at the time of his blood draw was State v. Bohling, 173 Wis. 2d 529, 494 N.W2d 399 (1993) and the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permits the admission of pre-McNeely blood test results obtained in reliance on the clear, well-settled precedent.

Ct. Legislature Approves DUI Ignition Locks

On May 7, 2014 the Connecticut Post published that even first-time drunken-driving arrests could result in court-ordered ignition interlock devices, under a bill that was ratified in the House that afternoon. The equipment requires drivers to blow into the ignition device, which has sensors to measure blood levels and prevent vehicles from starting if there is a presence of alcohol. Some devices have photographic equipment to confirm a driver's identity. The legislation was approved 147-0 after an hour-long debate. It was previously approved in the Senate and moves next to the governor.

Criminal Status of State Drunk Driving Laws

Every state has penalties for drivers who operate vehicles while intoxicated. Some do not classify impaired driving offenses as crimes, while others consider driving while intoxicated a misdemeanor criminal offense.  If a person is convicted of multiple offenses of driving while intoxicated, some states charge an offender with a felony. This chart from the National Conference of State Legislatures provides information about criminal charges related to driving while intoxicated for every state.

 

Upcoming Events

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