Unlawfully Obtained DUI Blood Sample Admissible as Evidence When Police Acted in Good Faith

Defendant appealed her aggravated DUI convictions arguing the trial court erred in not suppressing blood-alcohol test results because police obtained the blood sample without valid consent or warrant. Affirmed. Although the blood sample was unlawfully obtained, the BAC test evidence was admissible proof of guilt under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule of evidence. To learn more about the case rulings and how it impacts an Arizona DUI, talk with one of our drunk driving defense attorneys at Stewart Law Group.

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Unlawfully obtained DUI blood sample was admissible evidence in Arizona aggravated DUI trial where police acted in good-faith

Two Felony Counts of Aggravated DUI

Pima County Superior Court convicted defendant on two felony counts of aggravated driving under the influence. (Arizona’s aggravated DUI law is ARS § 28-1383.) She was sentenced to concurrent four-month prison terms followed by concurrent five-year probationary terms. The first felony DUI count was driving impaired to the slightest degree; the second count was driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. ARS § 28-1381(A)(1) and (A)(2), respectively.

Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure

The defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress blood test results because the blood sample was drawn without valid consent and without a warrant. In the motion, she claimed all blood sample evidence was the product of an unconstitutional warrantless search and seizure by police. As her Fourth Amendment rights had been violated, all blood test evidence should be suppressed under the exclusionary rule as inadmissibly obtained. After evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied the pretrial motion. Defendant filed a timely appeal.

Good-Faith Exception to the Exclusionary Rule

The sole issue on appeal was whether the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule of evidence applied to the blood test in this case. The defendant argued it did not and that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress BAC test results. The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling. Blood test results were properly admitted into evidence under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

In criminal court proceedings, the exclusionary rule allows suppression of evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The doctrine serves as a powerful deterrent against constitutional violations by law enforcement.

In Arizona, the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies when police “act with an objectively reasonable good-faith belief that their conduct is lawful.” (Citing the Arizona Supreme Court’s recognition of the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule in Arizona v. Valenzuela II, 239 Ariz. 299 (2016).) The good-faith exception does not apply when law enforcement showed “deliberate, reckless, or grossly negligent disregard” for the DUI suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights. Nor does the good-faith exception apply under circumstances involving “recurring or systemic negligence” by law enforcement.

Case law provides that a compelled blood draw is a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, but a DUI suspect’s express voluntary consent can allow a warrantless search.

Blood Drawn After Police Read Admin Per Se Admonition

The admin per se statute in ARS § 28-1321 requires police inform the DUI suspect of Arizona’s implied consent law “in a way that does not coerce consent by stating or implying that officers have lawful authority, without a warrant, to compel samples of blood, breath, or other bodily substances.” Valenzuela II.

Defendant was arrested for DUI by Oro Valley police in February 2015. The officer read the admin per se admonition form to defendant after arresting, handcuffing, and placing her in the back seat of the patrol car. The admin per se form stated how Arizona law “’require[d]’ her to complete certain tests to determine her blood-alcohol concentration.” The DUI suspect then submitted to a blood draw.

The defendant argued, through her DUI defense attorney, how the admin per se admonition read aloud by the officer misstated the law and was coercive, hence her submission to testing was not valid consent. Without valid consent, police were required to obtain a warrant before drawing blood, breath, or other bodily substances. The officer did not obtain a warrant as required by the Fourth Amendment, therefore all blood test evidence was inadmissible and should have been suppressed at trial.

The appeals court agreed the trial record showed the admin per se admonition form read by Oro Valley police did not comply with the standards set forth in Valenzuela II. Still, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant’s motion to suppress blood test evidence:

“[I]t was not until our supreme court set forth in Valenzuela II the proper procedures for giving the admin per se admonition that law enforcement had a clear directive that officers could not continue to use the admonition to imply they had authority to compel a warrantless blood draw. We will not hold law enforcement to a standard that requires them to have foreseen that change.”

Police cannot be faulted for relying on the admin per se admonition and statute. Implicit voluntariness case law – “[c]onsent given pursuant to the admin per se statute was voluntary” – had not been overturned. Defendant’s circumstances did not involve a situation where the officer knew or should have known the admonition was unconstitutional.

When this defendant was arrested for DUI, Arizona’s courts had not concluded that the “admin per se admonition was coercive, ineffective, or otherwise negated consent” after the Arizona Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. Butler, 232 Ariz. 84 (2013). (The dissent contends Butler could stand for the proposition that the implied consent admonition was insufficient, of itself, to facilitate voluntary consent to the blood draw under Fourth Amendment analysis.)

Because the Supreme Court in Valenzuela II acknowledged that Arizona courts had not questioned or overruled the admin per se admonition and continued to approve of its use, this appeals court must “follow our supreme court’s guidance and apply the good-faith exception in this case.”

Arizona v. Weakland, 2 CA-CR 2016-0186 (Ariz. Ct. App. Nov. 28, 2017)

For precise language, read the court’s original opinion. Legal citations omitted.

Arizona v. Courtney Noelle Weakland

Conviction of aggravated felony DUI in Arizona carries substantial penalties including heavy fines and incarceration. Are you prepared? Call 602-548-3400 or email info@arizonalawgroup.com to get The Arizona DUI Handbook, authored by criminal defense attorneys Scott D. Stewart and Colin Bell, both former prosecutors.