Appellate Court Allows Defendant’s Statement, Finding Any Error in Its Admission Was Harmless

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona DUI case involving a defendant who was alleged to have caused a serious accident while under the influence of methamphetamine. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the trial court failed to exclude a statement used against him at trial. However, the court refrained from weighing in on whether the statement was admissible, finding instead that, even if it was improperly admitted, and error it caused was harmless. The case illustrates the importance of raising and preserving all valid arguments at trial.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant entered an intersection without stopping at a stop sign and while traveling over the posted speed limit. As the defendant’s vehicle entered the intersection, it struck an SUV that had the right-of-way. There were three passengers in the defendant’s vehicle. One died, and two others were seriously injured. The driver and two passengers in the SUV were also injured.

The defendant, who was also injured in the accident, was taken to the hospital. While at the hospital, a detective hand-cuffed the defendant to the hospital bed and unsuccessfully attempted to interview him. Later, as the detective was out of view but within earshot, he heard the defendant tell a nurse that he had taken methamphetamine earlier in the day.

A bit later, police officers obtained a warrant to take the defendant’s blood. The blood test results confirmed the presence of methamphetamine in the defendant’s blood.

The Defendant’s Motion to Suppress

The defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress, arguing that the statement he made to the nurse should not be introduced at trial. The trial court denied the motion, a jury convicted the defendant, and he then appealed.

On appeal, the defendant again argued in support of his motion to suppress. However, the court rejected the defendant’s argument. The court did not look at the merits of the defendant’s motion, however, holding that any error in introducing his statement into evidence was harmless in light of the fact that the chemical test results indicated the presence of methamphetamine in his blood.

Interestingly, the court noted that the defendant did not claim that his statement to the nurse was used to obtain the warrant to obtain his blood. Had the defendant made such a claim, it is possible the outcome could have been different.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona DUI crime, contact the Law Offices of James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is a veteran criminal defense attorney with significant experience handling all types of DUI cases, ranging from first-time offenses to very serious DUI accident cases. With his help, you can rest assured that you are in good hands. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend against the allegations you face, give the Law Offices of James Novak a call at 480-413-1499 today. Attorney Novak offers all prospective clients a free consultation.

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