Thursday, May 17, 2007

Defendant Can Contest Lab Reports As Hearsay. State v. Kent 391 N.J. Super. 352 (App. Div. Decided March 22, 2007) A-3137-05T1.

Defendant was convicted of DWI following a single-car rollover accident, and the Law Division affirmed his conviction. At the municipal trial, the State placed into evidence, among other proofs, (1) a blood sample certificate pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:62A-11 from a private hospital employee who had extracted blood from defendant and (2) reports from a State Police laboratory that had tested the blood samples. The authors of those hearsay documents did not appear at trial.

The court reaffirms the holdings in State v. Renshaw, 390 N.J. Super. 456 (App. Div. 2007) (regarding blood sample certificates) and in State v. Berezansky, 385 N.J. Super. 84 (App. Div. 2006) (regarding State Police laboratory reports) concluding that the hearsay documents are "testimonial" under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), and that defendant was thus deprived of his right of confrontation under the Sixth Amendment.

However the court, also noted that, unless our Supreme Court determines otherwise, the confrontation clause of Article I, Paragraph 10 of the New Jersey Constitution does not appear to independently require such cross-examination beyond current federal precedents interpreting the Sixth Amendment. Additionally, the court recommends that legislative and/or rule-making initiatives be pursued to avoid placing undue testimonial burdens on health care workers and law enforcement personnel who may create documents relevant to drunk driving prosecutions.

Defendant's DWI conviction is affirmed on independent grounds, based upon the arresting officer's numerous observations indicative of defendant's intoxication, and defendant's admission of drinking.

If Billing Dispute, Customer Not Guilty of Shoplifting. State v. Goodmann 390 NJ Super. 259 (App. Div. 2007).

The court held that a customer who, following a billing dispute with Walgreens regarding the cost of photo processing, takes the finished photographs without paying for them, but gives his name and address to the store manager, cannot be found guilty of shoplifting. Photo processing constitutes a service, and therefore, Walgreens was not acting as a "merchant" when it contracted to develop the customer's film. Further, the photographs that Walgreens produced were not "merchandise," because they lacked value to anyone other the customer and were not salable.
The court also held that a customer, engaged in a billing dispute, who left contact information so that the dispute could be settled, cannot be found to have "purposely" taken possession of the "merchandise" with the intention of converting the same to his own use without "paying to the merchant the full retail value thereof."

Nurse Can Be Required to Testify in DWI Blood Case. State v. Renshaw 390 NJ Super. 456 (App. Div. 2007).

The Court held that the admission in evidence of the Uniform Certification for Bodily Specimens Taken in a Medically Acceptable Manner, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A: 62A-11, without the opportunity for cross-examination of the nurse who drew the blood, and over the objection of defendant, runs afoul of the right of confrontation protected both by the United States and the New Jersey Constitutions.