Unfair NJ DWI Trial Ruling & Appeal

I had a lengthy dwi trial this week. My client was charged with dwi following a roll-over accident. The police took her to the hospital where a nurse withdrew her blood. The State claimed a blood alcohol concentration of .25%.

The trial was troubling. The laboratory technician who analyzed my client’s blood was not called as a witness by the State (she was not available). This made her certified laboratory result (the analysis of her blood for alcohol) inadmissible “hearsay.”

The Judge allowed the laboratory certificate into evidence despite clear authority that prohibits the introduction. I have always despised injustice. I get passionate in the face of injustice. The Court’s ruling was quite disturbing. There is New Jersey legal authority supporting the defense position that the laboratory certificate is inadmissible without the technician being available for cross examination. From a constitutional point of view, the Defendant has a right to confront the accuser – thus, since a document cannot be cross-examined, the facts contained in the document cannot be admitted against a defendant.

In addition to New Jersey Law, there was a recent United States Supreme Court case, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, that without question, prohibits the introduction of a laboratory certificate without producing the laboratory technician.

My client was found not guilty of careless driving, and not guilty of dwi based on the observations. She was however, found guilty of dwi but based only on the laboratory certificate showing her blood alcohol concentration. The guilty finding was based solely on a document that was improperly admitted. The sentence was, at my request, held in abeyance (“stayed”) pending an appeal. I am 100% confident that the conviction will be overturned.

The trial, and the injustice, took a lot out of me. I had to take some time off to decompress from my disappointment and disgust. I felt terrible for my client who I believe got shafted by the system. The Court’s ruling was so clearly against the prevailing law – not just any law, but United States Supreme Court Law! I took some time off and spent it with my wife and two kids. I closed my office and took in a Yankee game with one of my daughters.

I am heading back into my office to file the appeal. I will post the result. I am very confident the final ruling will be a reversal.

Greggory M. Marootian, Esq.

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A prosecutor has a unique position in the criminal justice system. His chief duty is “to see that justice is done” not merely to convict defendants. State v. Ramseur, 106 N.J. 123, 320 (1987). With that in mind, I wrote the following letter to the Prosecutor in this case (I omitted his name, and the County where the case is pending). You are free to speak your mind and comment:

Dear Mr. *************
I am filing a De Novo Appeal from the September 29, 2009 conviction in the above matter(s). Obviously, I disagree with the Court’s ruling that allowed the laboratory certificate to be entered in evidence without the presence of the laboratory technician.
I am puzzled by the State’s position. I am baffled (and frankly bothered) that the State would seek to introduce the certificate into evidence in light of the prevailing law on the issue.
I am enclosing a copy of the United States Supreme Court decision in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, which I cited and referred to on September 29, 2009. That case is directly on point and disallows the introduction of the laboratory certificate without the technician being present.
In the interests of justice and morality, I would ask that you formally take a position with the ******* County Prosecutor’s Office for this appeal. In light of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the State successfully and erroneously moved (over defense objection) the blood test results into evidence. I will await your review and reply.

2 Comments
  1. Drunk driving is a very serious crime that puts every single being in harm's way. A blood alcohol content of 0.25% is severly drunk, so do you or your client truly think that she wasn't over the 0.08% limit??? I understand that lawyers look for loopholes, and that is your reasoning for wanting to question the technican, but New Jerseyans are probably safer if your client is not driving on the roads.
    Your blog is obviously very slanted towards your point of view. Can you tell us where your client was coming from… a bar or restaurant? Does she admit that she was drinking?
    Today's American society has unfortunately turned away from accepting responsibility and blame. That sir, is my opinion of injustice.
    Thank you for allowing me to share my view on your blog. I truly hope you allow this to be published.

  2. Eric. Thank you for your post. I do understand your opinion about "accepting responsibility" which is a moral issue. In the end, there has to be someone in the system that keeps it "in check." Someone once called defense lawyers "a necessary evil." Being a defendant in a DWI in New Jersey feels lonely for many clients because like you, many feel that the offense is heinous; it puts many people in harms way, and causes havoc. People tend to rush to judge people charged with DWI in New Jersey.

    Think about a system without defense lawyers. There would be no one to challenge the immense power of the State, and no one to assure that trials are conducted in accord with the Constitution. Think of defense lawyers as small parts of a machine with many moving and necessary parts.

    Let us take this discussion to a logical extreme by making some exceptions to the Constitution. As many know, the police cannot (with very limited exception) enter your home without a valid search warrant. The reason for this is to keep police power in check and guard against unreasonable invasions into our privacy. A neutral detached judge must look at the facts to see whether there is sufficient cause to enter a house. If we were to do away with this technicality – this mere loophole, the police would be able to barge into your house whenever they wanted to – "just because." They can, if they wanted, pick a street and just enter every house until they find some illegal activity or substance. I am taking this to a logical (or "illogical") extreme to make the point

    I love New York. Walk around, and you can see and hear people from all over the world. It lets me know that people do love and admire America. People die trying to get to our shores on boats, in trunks of cars, in storage containers, etc. One thing that makes America great is the checks and balances built in to the system. Thanks again for your post.

    Greggory M. Marootian, Esq.
    New Jersey DWI Lawyer
    http://www.newjerseydwi.com
    http://www.njdwidefense.com

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