Arizona Court Affirms Denial of Motion to Suppress after Applying Nevada State Law

In the vast majority of Arizona DUI cases, the applicable law that governs the case is that of the jurisdiction where the offense occurred. However, in very rare circumstances, another state’s laws may apply. This puts state courts in the difficult position of applying a foreign jurisdiction’s law. In a recent Arizona DUI case, the court explained why the defendant’s motion was properly denied under Nevada law by the trial court.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant’s vehicle swerved into oncoming traffic, colliding with another vehicle. The defendant suffered serious injuries in the accident. While police were investigating the accident, they noticed that the defendant smelled of alcohol. A helicopter took the defendant to a hospital in Nevada.

While in the hospital, Arizona law enforcement called the Nevada hospital and requested they draw the defendant’s blood. The requesting officer did not discuss whether a warrant was necessary, but later testified that he did not believe it was his responsibility to obtain a warrant. The hospital complied with the request without obtaining a warrant. At the time, the defendant was unconscious. The sample was given to a Nevada law enforcement officer. The test results revealed that the defendant had a blood-alcohol content of .21, well over the legal limit of .08.

The defendant moved to suppress the blood-alcohol test results, arguing that under the U.S. Supreme Court case Missouri v. McNeely, warrantless blood draws were unconstitutional. The prosecution argued that this case arose before the McNeely decision was issued, that Nevada law applied to the case, and that the Nevada good-faith exception applied.

The procedural history of the case is somewhat complex, but ultimately, an Arizona appellate court held that the Nevada good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied, and that the test-result evidence should not be suppressed. In so holding, the court first noted that the exclusionary rule is imposed as a consequence of illegal police violating the rights of the defendant and is designed to deter police misconduct.

The court concluded that the blood-draw was illegal under Arizona law, but legal under Nevada law. This was based on the application of the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The good-faith exception prevents the suppression of illegally seized evidence if the officer obtaining the evidence was acting in good faith when he came into possession of the evidence. Here, the court first held that Nevada law applied because that was where the blood was drawn. Additionally, it was a Nevada officer that first took possession of the defendant’s blood while he was in a Nevada hospital. The court went on to hold that there would be no deterrent effect of applying the exclusionary rule in this case because there was no misconduct involved. The court explained that the Nevada officer reasonably relied on the request of another law enforcement officer, which was done in good faith.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona DUI?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona DUI offense, contact the dedicated Tempe DUI defense attorney, James E. Novak. Attorney Novak is an experienced criminal defense attorney with unrivaled knowledge, passion, and skill. To learn more about how Attorney Novak can help you defend against the charges you face, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation today.

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