August 21, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Results of Warrantless Blood Draw Properly Suppressed

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Schaufele on Monday, June 2, 2014.

Warrantless Blood Draw—Suppression of Evidence.

Defendant was involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in injuries to himself and others. Approximately one hour later, while defendant lay unresponsive at the hospital, a police officer told a nurse to draw his blood for alcohol analysis. It is undisputed that the officer and her co-workers never considered applying for a search warrant. The People later sought to use evidence from that blood draw in prosecuting defendant for vehicular assault, driving under the influence, driving under the influence per se, and careless driving.

In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court considered whether the trial court applied the proper legal test when it suppressed evidence stemming from the blood draw. The People also asked the Court to adopt a new approach in evaluating whether exigent circumstances justify a warrantless blood draw of a suspected drunk driver, an approach based solely on the length of time required to secure a search warrant.

The Court affirmed the trial court’s suppression order. The Court held that the trial court properly adhered to Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013), in suppressing evidence of defendant’s blood draw.  The Court rejected the People’s invitation to disregard the majority opinion in McNeely, which instructs a trial court to consider the totality of the circumstances and to instead adopt Chief Justice Roberts’s concurring and dissenting opinion that “a warrantless blood draw may ensue” if “an officer could reasonably conclude that there is not sufficient time to seek and receive a warrant.”

Summary and full case available here.

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