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State v. Taylor

Decided: November 16, 1984.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES TAYLOR, DEFENDANT



Palese, J.s.c.

Palese

[199 NJSuper Page 340] Defendant has been charged with a violation of the New Jersey Drinking-Driving Law, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50 et seq. He has now moved before the Superior Court, Law Division, to suppress (1) statements made at the scene, (2) statements made at police headquarters and (3) results of breathalyzer and field sobriety tests. Defendant challenges issues that have been previously settled in this State, State v. Macuk, 57 N.J. 1 (1970), and contends that the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court in Berkemer v. McCarty, U.S. , 104 S. Ct. 3138, 82 L. Ed. 2d 317 (1984) mandates a review and

reversal of Macuk and its progeny because of a failure to give Miranda warnings to defendant.

On July 14, 1984, at approximately 4:45 a.m., Patrolman Edward Powers of the Merchantville, New Jersey Police Department, while on routine patrol, observed the automobile driven by defendant proceeding east on Maple Avenue. The automobile was weaving between the curb and the double line dividing the highway. Patrolman Powers was proceeding in a westerly direction on the same street. After passing the vehicle Patrolman Powers turned his patrol car around and proceeded to follow defendant's automobile. The patrolman followed for approximately 1 1/2 blocks, still observing the continued weaving of defendant's vehicle. He turned on the overhead lights of his patrol car but defendant continued to operate his vehicle. The patrolman then sounded his siren and defendant stopped his car.

Patrolman Powers approached the vehicle and asked defendant to produce his driver's license, registration and insurance card. Defendant immediately produced the insurance card and registration from his glove compartment; he then handed his wallet to the patrolman for the patrolman to obtain the driver's license. The patrolman returned the wallet to defendant and asked defendant to remove his license, which defendant eventually did after "fumbling through the wallet." After watching defendant remove his license the patrolman asked defendant if he had been drinking. Defendant replied that "yes," he had been drinking "across from work." Patrolman Powers then asked defendant to step out of the car and proceeded to conduct a field sobriety test.

Several routine balance tests were conducted which defendant was unable to perform. Patrolman Powers then informed defendant that he was under arrest for driving under the influence of intoxicating beverages. Defendant was transported to police headquarters. He was questioned at that time for the purpose of completing an alcohol influence report, was

subjected to several sets of balance tests and was then given a breathalyzer test. He again "failed" the balance tests and registered .19 on the breathalyzer machine. Several of the questions on the alcohol influence report relate to defendant's consumption of alcohol. In his answers defendant admitted drinking beer at both his home and at a local bar. He also admitted that he had taken his first drink at 2:00 p.m. and his last drink at 9:00 p.m. on July 13, 1984. At no time after defendant was placed under arrest was he given Miranda warnings.

The factual situation in Berkemer was similar to that presented to this court. The arresting officer observed Berkemer's vehicle weaving on an interstate highway. Upon stopping the vehicle the officer conducted a field sobriety test and questioned Berkemer at the scene about the use of intoxicants. Berkemer admitted that he had been drinking and smoking marijuana. After being formally taken into custody and transported to the jail Berkemer was given a breathalyzer test and again questioned by the arresting officer. This questioning was done for the purpose of completing the state highway patrol alcohol influence report. Berkemer again answered affirmatively when asked whether he had been drinking. He also admitted to being "barely" under the influence of alcohol. The patrolman in Berkemer, as the patrolman in the present case, failed to advise defendant of his Miranda rights after placing defendant under arrest.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari on a petition from a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit "to resolve confusion in the Federal and State Courts regarding the applicability of our ruling in Miranda to interrogations involving minor offenses in the questioning of motorists detained pursuant to traffic stops." U.S. at , 104 S. Ct. at 3144, 82 L. Ed. 2d at 326-327.

After finding that no rights of Berkemer were violated prior to his being placed under arrest, the Court held that a person

subjected to custodial interrogation is entitled to the procedural safeguards enunciated in Miranda regardless of the nature or severity of the offense. U.S. at , 104 S. Ct. at 3148, 82 L. Ed. 2d at 331. The Court determined that any statements made at the scene were properly admissible and any statements made after arrest were ...


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