Blood-alcohol tests on a driver whose passenger died in a 2011 crash have been ruled inadmissible, in apparently the first local case affected by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such tests usually require a warrant.
Sundeep Sekhon, 37, of Atlantic City, is charged with vehicular homicide in the one-car crash on Route 30 in Absecon that killed his cousin. Results of blood tests taken without a warrant 70 to 75 minutes after the June 4, 2011, crash showed his blood-alcohol concentration was 0.06, less than the 0.08 threshold for drunken driving.
Defense attorney Joseph Levin said that number is why he doesn’t understand the reason criminal charges were filed against the dentist.
“He was not drunk,” Levin said. “He was driving a little above the speed limit, but at a reasonable speed for that road. And he did not cause the tragic accident.”
But the state expert's report said that, when the crash occurred about an hour and 15 minutes before the test was taken, Sekhon’s blood-alcohol was likely more than the legal limit.
The result, however, was not legally obtained, Superior Court Judge Michael Donio ruled Wednesday, citing an April decision by the Supreme Court that drawing blood constitutes a search and, therefore, requires a warrant unless there are urgent circumstances.
That exception was not evident in the Absecon case, the judge said.
The timeline and number of officers at the scene allowed for a warrant to be obtained through a phone call before the test was administered, Donio said in his ruling.
The state will appeal the decision, which suppresses a “very important piece of evidence in this case,” acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said.
“We understand the judge’s ruling, however, we respectfully disagree with it on several aspects and will look to appeal those aspects to the Appellate Division,” the prosecutor said.
“Judge Donio’s decision is probably the first in the state to apply (the Supreme Court ruling) at the Superior Court level,” Levin said. “I am confident that his decision will be upheld on appeal.”
Levin also said the family of the victim, Amarinder Sandhu, 31, of Roanoke, Va., does not want Sekhon prosecuted and has repeatedly asked that the charges be dropped.
Sekhon is free on $150,000 bail. In addition to vehicular homicide, he is charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, speeding, careless driving, failure to maintain lane and improper display of plates.
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