Defendant Contended That His Un-Mirandized Statements to Police Should Have Been Suppressed and That the Court Committed Reversible Error
Docket No. A-1666-19
Decided December 2, 2022
Submitted by New Jersey DWI Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from judgment of conviction entered after a jury trial of four counts arising from a motor vehicle collision that resulted in serious bodily injury, as well as his aggregate sentence of twenty-three years in prison.
In May 2017, defendant ran a red light and crashed into another vehicle. He was intoxicated at the time of the accident. The driver of the second vehicle suffered serious bodily injuries and was hospitalized and then bedridden for some time. After the crash, defendant exited his car and walked past the driver’s side door of the victim’s car without rendering aid and fled the scene. Another driver witnessed the crash and turned around to help the victim. The motorist advised police of the defendant’s description and reported that he fled on foot. An officer eventually located the defendant walking away from the crash at a fast pace with a limp. The officer noted that the defendant was agitated, bleeding, very irate and rambling continuously saying “it wasn’t my fault.” The defendant then refused the officer’s order to get on the ground and started yelling profanity to get defendant to comply. The officer’s body camera footage also recorded the officer asking defendant “what happened?” Defendant replied that the other driver had run the red light.
The officer indicated that he detected a strong odor of alcohol on defendant’s person. He did not conduct field sobriety tests because the defendant was injured. Although his bodycam footage revealed he advised defendant he was under arrest, the officer testified that he did not place the defendant under arrest at this time. While being transported to the hospital, another officer asked defendant if he had been drinking, to which defendant responded “no.” Defendant also admitted that he was at a restaurant having a good time prior to the crash. At the hospital, defendant refused to submit to blood alcohol testing.
Before trial commenced, defendant filed a motion to suppress the inculpatory statements he made to the officers. Defendant argued he was in custody when he was ordered to the ground and the statements made afterwards were the product of custodial interrogation. Since he was not advised of his Miranda rights at that time, all subsequent statements are inadmissible. The trial court denied this motion.
The jury ultimately found defendant guilty of knowingly leaving scene of accident, assault by auto, aggravated assault, and endangering an injured victim. However, defendant was acquitted of DWI, but was sentenced as a persistent offender to twenty-three years of imprisonment. Defendant appealed.
On appeal, defendant contended that his un-Mirandized statements to police should have been suppressed and that the court committed reversible error when it proceeded with a crucial testimonial hearing without the defendant present.
The Appellate Court found that the trial court’s error in proceeding with the suppression hearing without determining whether defendant’s absence was knowing, voluntary, and unjustified warrants vacating defendant’s convictions. The court concluded that defendant’s counsel did not have the authority to waive his client’s right to be present at the suppression hearing. On remand, the trial court were instructed to conduct an evidentiary hearing with respect to defendant’s motion to suppress, after which it shall determine when defendant was placed under arrest and whether the statements he made to the officers were the products of custodial interrogation without the benefit of being apprised of his Miranda rights.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to motions to suppress statements made in violation of Miranda. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.