Articles Posted in Blood Draws

The opinions of the United States Supreme Court are the law of the land and generally must be followed by all states. Often, the Supreme Court decides which cases to choose based on the issues that are presented in the case. Typically, the Court will select cases that raise legal questions that are unclear or not entirely settled due to incremental advancements in the law made by lower courts.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case, Mitchell v. Wisconsin, which discusses blood-draws from unconscious motorists who are suspected of being under the influence. The case is the third U.S. Supreme Court case in recent years to touch on this topic. However, because no five Justices could agree on a single basis for the opinion, technically, the decision is not binding on the lower courts and only impacts the defendant in this case. However, in reality, courts across the country will look to the plurality opinion for guidance.

The facts as the Court described them are as follows: police officers arrested the defendant under suspicion of driving under the influence. Officers took the defendant to the police station to administer a breath test; however, the defendant was too lethargic to complete the test. Because Wisconsin law provides that an unconscious motorist is not capable of withdrawing implied consent, an officer drove the defendant to a hospital for a blood draw. The results of the test indicated the defendant’s blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit, and he was arrested and charged with DUI.

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.

A few posts ago, we discussed Arizona’s implied consent statute, which provides that anyone who operates a vehicle on a public road implicitly consents to chemical testing if police suspect they are under the influence. In the post, we also discussed that while motorists have no legal basis for refusing a test, they cannot be physically forced to undergo chemical testing.

Recently, the Arizona Supreme Court issued an opinion in an Arizona DUI case discussing whether a defendant’s consent to allow chemical testing of his blood was coerced, and thus invalid under the Fourth Amendment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer did not coerce the defendant’s consent by explaining to the defendant that his license would be suspended for 12 months if he refused testing.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence. After the defendant was arrested, the arresting officer requested the defendant consent to a blood draw. During that request, the officer explained that “Arizona law states that a person who operates a motor vehicle … gives consent to a test … for the purpose of determining alcohol concentration or drug content.” The officer also explained that “If you refuse, do not expressly agree to submit to, or do not successfully complete the tests, your Arizona driving privilege will be suspended.”

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug case involving allegations that the defendant possessed methamphetamine with the intent to deliver. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the results of a blood test that was administered to the defendant on the day of her arrest were admissible. The court concluded that they were.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was pulled over after a police officer noticed that the car the defendant was driving did not have a temporary registration tag displayed. During the traffic stop, the officer noticed that the defendant exhibited signs of intoxication. The defendant was placed under arrest for driving under the influence.

After the defendant’s arrest, the officer conducted an inventory search of the car, which was registered to the defendant’s sister. During the search, the officer located an eyeglasses case inside a coat pocket. Inside the eyeglasses cases was a pipe and some methamphetamine. The defendant was taken into the police station, and her blood was taken. The results came back showing that the defendant had methamphetamine in her blood. The defendant was then charged with transportation of a dangerous drug for sale, possession of a dangerous drug for sale, possession of a dangerous drug, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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Late last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona DUI case in which the court had to determine if the officer’s arrest of the defendant was supported by probable cause. The case gave the court the opportunity to discuss probable cause in the DUI context, and what the prosecution must show to establish that probable cause existed to arrest someone for DUI.

The Facts of the Case

Two men were taking their two-year-old cousin to the pharmacy by car. The driver parked the car, and each man grabbed one of the young child’s hands as they walked across the parking lot toward the entrance to the pharmacy. As they were walking, however, the young child broke free from the men and was struck by the defendant’s truck.

Police officers responded to the scene and immediately learned that the child had died from the collision. One officer approached the defendant, who was huddled over and clearly distraught. As the officer bent down to talk to the defendant, he claimed that the defendant had a “strong, pungent” odor of alcohol coming from her breath. When asked, the defendant responded that she had consumed two cans of beer earlier that day. The officer also noticed that the defendant’s eyes were watery and her face was flushed. However, the officer acknowledged that the defendant’s appearance may have been due to her distraught state and was not clearly evidence of intoxication. The officer then arrested the defendant.

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In a recent opinion, an Arizona state court discussed the “medical draw exception” to the general requirement that police obtain a search warrant before taking the blood of someone they suspect to be under the influence. The case offered the court the opportunity to clarify the narrow set of circumstances under which the exception applies.

The Facts of the Case

A witness happened upon a vehicle that had crashed into a business’ entry gate. The witness saw the defendant turn off the engine and then slump over the wheel. The witness called 911, and the fire department came to assist the defendant.

The fire department personnel found the defendant unconscious, with no visible trauma, behind the wheel. They removed the defendant and took him to the hospital, where several tests were conducted, and again, no visible trauma was noted. The defendant was hooked up to a ventilator while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with him. Hospital staff took the defendant’s blood for medical purposes and securely stored it. A nurse noted that the defendant’s breath smelled of alcohol.

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