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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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Atlantic County Judge Throws Out Blood Test in DWI Crash

This week an Atlantic County Superior Court Judge granted a defense motion to suppress blood test results in a fatal DWI crash. The Atlantic City Press reported that Sundeep Sekon of Atlantic City is charged with vehicular homicide in a one-car crash that occurred on June 4, 2011 in Absecon. The crash killed his cousin, who was a passenger in the vehicle. The state’s expert reported that the accident occurred an hour and fifteen minutes before the blood was taken and the driver’s blood-alcohol was likely over the legal limit.

Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Michael Donio ruled Wednesday that the state did not lawfully obtain the blood sample in light of a recent United States Supreme Court decision. Judge Donio cited the Supreme Court decision and said that drawing blood constitutes a search and, therefore, requires a warrant unless there are exigent or urgent circumstances. The Court found that there were no exigent circumstances present and the police should have obtained a search warrant.

Unfortunately, DWI accidents resulting in a fatality or serious injury occur quite frequently. Drivers are charged with serious felony offenses which are aggressively prosecuted. The state must prove that the driver was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the accident. This is typically proven by evidence of a breath test or blood test. The current law says that police need a warrant to take blood from DWI suspect.

There is a bill in the New Jersey Legislature would subject drivers involved in fatal accidents to mandatory blood testing for drugs without the need for police to show probable cause. The bill, A-4464, states “A blood sample shall be obtained at any time a person has been operating a motor vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the death of another person”. In addition, the proposed law would impose the same seven-month license suspension penalty for refusing a blood test as for refusing to provide a breath sample.

The bill was filed September 9, 2013 but will not be formally introduced until the Assembly is next in session, which might not occur until November.

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