On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.
Petrella, Dreier and Baime. Baime, J.A.D.
We granted the State's motion for leave to appeal from an interlocutory order of the Superior Court, Law Division, suppressing evidence seized by the police following defendant's arrest. The novel question presented is whether the police may, without a search warrant, compel an arrested defendant to provide a urine specimen when they have probable cause to believe that she is under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial judge rendered an oral opinion in which he concluded that the evidence was obtained by reason of an unlawful search and seizure. We disagree and reverse.
The facts are not in dispute. At approximately 1:45 a.m. on November 15, 1986, a Port Authority patrolman observed a blue 1978 Chrysler Cordoba with an expired inspection sticker parked by a toll booth supervisor's office. The police officer approached the automobile and asked the driver to produce his license and registration. As the driver was complying with this request, the officer observed an open can of beer on the floor adjacent to the front seat. Both the driver and the front seat passenger were placed under arrest after the patrolman noticed that their eyes appeared "watery" and "bloodshot."
At that point, defendant, the rear seat passenger, was asked to exit the vehicle. The officer observed that she also had "watery and bloodshot eyes" and that her pupils reacted sluggishly to light. In addition to these visual observations, the patrolman noticed that defendant's speech was slurred and she appeared somewhat belligerent. Based upon his experience as a police officer and a paramedic, he concluded that defendant was under the influence of a narcotic drug, probably a stimulant.
A cursory search of the automobile revealed a hand rolled cigarette in a box contained in the glove compartment. Upon searching defendant's pocketbook, the patrolman discovered a small amount of green vegetation, a manilla envelope containing two yellow pills, a pack of rolling paper, a brown glass vial with a "coke spoon" and a pipe.
Defendant was transported to police headquarters where she was detained for being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance (N.J.S.A. 24:21-20b). Apparently, the arresting officer was under the misapprehension that any person arrested under the Controlled Dangerous Substances Act (N.J.S.A. 24:21-1 et seq.) was required to provide a urine specimen. Acting under that mistaken belief, the patrolman directed defendant to give a urine sample when she stated that she required the use of the ladies room. Accompanied by a female matron, defendant complied. The specimen was subsequently tested and the State sought to introduce evidence of the laboratory results.
As we have noted, the trial judge granted defendant's pretrial motion to suppress the urine sample. While finding that the evidence confiscated from the automobile and the pocketbook were constitutionally seized, the judge determined that the urine specimen was obtained in contravention of defendant's right of privacy under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
We commence our analysis with the fundamental principle that search warrants are strongly favored under the Federal and State constitutions. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 236, 103 S. Ct. 2317, 2331, 76 L. Ed. 2d 527, 546-547 (1983), reh'g den. 463 U.S. 1237, 104 S. Ct. 33, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1453 (1983); State v. Valencia, 93 N.J. 126, 133 (1983); State v. Young, 87 N.J. 132, 141 (1981); State v. Welsh, 84 N.J. 346, 352 (1980); State v. Kasabucki, 52 N.J. 110, 116 (1968). The warrant requirement is predicated upon the premise that the necessity and reasonableness of a search can best be determined "by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of . . . [a police] officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime." Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14, 68 S. Ct. 367, 369, 92 L. Ed. 436, 440 (1948). It is also well-settled, however, that this prevailing rule is subject to various narrowly drawn exceptions. See State v. Patino, 83 N.J. 1, 7 (1980); State v. Ercolano, 79 N.J. 25, 42 (1979); State v. Sims, 75 N.J. 337, 351 (1978). We are convinced that the seizure here falls within two judicially cognizable exemptions from the warrant requirement.
Initially, we are entirely satisfied that there existed sufficient exigent circumstances warranting the police demand for a urine specimen. Searches conducted under exigent circumstances have long been considered constitutionally permissible notwithstanding the absence of a warrant. See, e.g., Warden, Maryland Penitentiary v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 87 S. Ct. 1642, 18 L. Ed. 2d 782 (1967); Johnson v. United States, supra; State v. DeLorenzo, 166 N.J. Super. 483, 488-489 (App.Div.1979); State v. Miller, 126 N.J. Super. 572, 575 (App.Div.1974); State v. Allen, 113 N.J. Super. 245, 251 (App.Div.1970). This exception is applicable when the search is supported by probable cause and is ...