DWI Blood Lab Reports Not Business or Public Records – State v. Berezansky

Today’s Appellate Division opinion in State v. Berezansky represents another critical step in the development of post-Crawford (Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004)) confrontation clause jurisprudence in New Jersey.

The legal issues in Berezansky involve a challenge by the defendant to the admissibility State Police laboratory results of a blood test in a drunk driving case. The State argued, in conformity with existing case law, that such laboratory reports are normally admissible in a drunk driving case as either a public record or a business record.

The Appellate Division rejected this position and ruled that the admissibility of laboratory blood tests from the State Police in a drunk driving case should generally conform to the statutory procedures required by the Legislature for laboratory reports in drug cases under NJSA 2C:35-19. Under this statute and the case law that has interpreted it, (State v. Simbara, 175 N.J. 37 (2002) and State v. Miller, 170 N.J. 417 (2002)) a defendant is entitled to complete proof as to the reliability of the testing procedures used as part of discovery and maintains the right to confront the person who prepared the report in court simply by objecting to the report’s admissibility pre-trial.

On the basis of Crawford, Miller and Simbara, today’s decision calls into question the continuing validity of such well-established DWI blood cases as State v. Oliveri, 336 N.J. Super. 244 (App. Div. 2001) and certain aspects of the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark case State v. Matulewicz, 101 N.J. 27 (1985).

In addition, in the absence a future modification of this opinion by the Supreme Court, this decision will fundamentally change the way DWI blood cases will be prosecuted, defended and tried in municipal court. At a minimum, this case will likely result in State Police forensic laboratory personnel being required frequently to testify in DWI blood cases around the state.

Download a copy of State v. Berezansky.

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