Blood Test Was Voluntary Under Arizona Implied Consent Law

Driver’s consent to blood testing upon DUI arrest was voluntary. Police advised driver of Arizona implied consent law. Looking at the totality of the circumstances, the driver’s consent was neither coerced nor given under duress. The trial court did not err in denying defendant’s motion to suppress the blood test results. Affirmed.

Arizona v. Alfonso DeAnda III (2018)Arizona Supreme Court (2019), affirmed.

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The court must look to the totality of circumstances surrounding the encounter to determine factually if consent was voluntary or the product of duress or coercion.

Arrest for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol

DeAnda was stopped by Tucson police because he exhibited signs of alcohol impairment while driving. Once placed under arrest, a Tucson officer advised him of Arizona’s implied consent law and, after reading the advisement to DeAnda, asked if he would submit to the tests. DeAnda agreed. The officer drew a blood sample and submitted it for forensic analysis. The test results revealed a BAC of .142.

DeAnda was charged with DUI. Before his trial, he filed a motion to suppress the blood test evidence on grounds his consent to testing was coerced by the officer’s advisement of the implied consent law. After evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied DeAnda’s motion and the blood test evidence was admitted.

At trial, the state relied on the blood test results. Ultimately, DeAnda was convicted on two counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of aggravated driving with a BAC of .08 or more. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment not exceeding four months and, thereafter, concurrent five-year terms of probation.

Defendant Argued Consent Was Coerced and Blood Test Wrongly Admitted

DeAnda appealed the DUI convictions and sentences, arguing the trial court erred in not suppressing the blood test results. The crux of his argument was that law enforcement “should have given him the option to submit or refuse testing prior to explaining the penalties associated with refusal.” In other words, DeAnda believed a recitation of the implied consent statute and penalties should have followed the officer’s question, “Will you submit to the tests?” instead of being told the consequences before being asked for consent.

Blood Test Results in DUI Trial

The issue before the Court of Appeals was whether the trial court erred in denying DeAnda’s motion to suppress the blood test results. The appeals court answered in the negative, affirming the trial court.

The appeals court compared breath testing with blood testing. A breath test is not so invasive and falls within the search incident to arrest exception to the general warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

By contrast, because a blood test is more intrusive than a breath test, blood testing is not within the search incident to arrest exception. Any consent to blood testing must be voluntary under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and cannot be coerced. The Fourth Amendment’s general prohibition on warrantless searches does allow them if the suspect freely and voluntarily consents to the search. Citing Arizona v. Valenzuela, 239 Ariz. 299 (2016).

The court must look to the totality of circumstances surrounding the encounter and arrest to determine factually if consent was voluntary or the product of duress or coercion. In this instance, police accurately advised DeAnda of the implied consent law (ARS § 28-1321), the administrative consequences of refusing consent, and sufficiently implied DeAnda had the power to refuse testing.

Neither the procedure DeAnda suggested nor the type of advisement given by law enforcement violated Arizona law.

Affirming no error in the trial court’s denying the motion to suppress blood test evidence, the Arizona Supreme Court offered this recommendation:

“Here, the admin per se form read to DeAnda did not in itself establish that his consent was voluntary—a fact recognized by the trial court in considering the totality of the circumstances in denying the motion to suppress—but it also did not alone render any resulting consent involuntary. Combined with other circumstances, the form’s use … might lead a trial court to reasonably find that consent was not freely and fairly given. To help avoid this prospect, the state would be well advised to use the more recently revised version of the implied consent form, as amended after Valenzuela II, to follow the procedure set forth in § 28-1321(B) or otherwise provide ‘the arrestee a clear choice whether to submit to testing or refuse consent.” Citing State v. Valenzuela (Valenzuela II), 239 Ariz. 299 (2016).

 State v. DeAnda III, 244 Ariz. 471 (App. 2018); CR-18-0286-PR (Ariz.Sup.Ct. Feb. 28, 2019), affirmed.

For precise language, please read both courts’ original opinions. Legal citations have been omitted.

For more information about the impact of Arizona’s implied consent law on DUI cases, read The Arizona DUI Handbook by criminal defense attorneys Scott David Stewart and Colin Bell.