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Not passing the smell test

In State v. Koch, App. Div. defendant Koch was convicted in Municipal Court of underage consumption of alcohol on private property. The judge imposed a $250 fine, and $33 court costs. At a trial de novo in the Law Division, the court found Koch guilty of the same charge and imposed the same sanctions. The appellate panel reverses, concluding that the Law Division judge erred in excluding the videotape of a motor vehicle stop of Koch about an hour and a half after the arresting officer, Patrolman DeWitt, left the scene of a party. That videotape directly impeached DeWitt's testimony. It tended to raise a reasonable doubt about the credibility and accuracy of DeWitt's identification of Koch as one of the partygoers who consumed alcohol. Further, Koch has raised a valid Miranda issue. The partygoers who remained at the scene were detained for about 20 minutes. DeWitt's sniffing of their breath was clearly in a custodial setting. His actions were an implied question to Koch and others to indicate whether they had consumed alcoholic beverages. Koch was charged in a quasi-criminal matter, which resulted in the imposition of a penal consequence. Therefore, the statement attributed to Koch should have been suppressed for failure to give Miranda warnings.

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