Monday, March 15, 2010
Tripp collided with a motorcyclist. Police smelled no alcohol on her breath. As was routine, police asked Tripp for a blood sample. She refused. Backup and a victim’s advocate arrived. At various times, the officers requested a blood sample. No officer identified probable cause to take a sample. Tripp consistently refused. When family members intervened and told her not to answer the officers’ questions, they arrested Tripp and isolated her in the back of a patrol car. While there, police assigned a victim’s advocate “to help [Tripp] become more relaxed with the blood draw.” The advocate complied. Tripp still refused the blood draw. The technician told her “let me put on this tourniquet, see if we can find a spot.” Tripp extended her arm, the technician put the tourniquet on, and blood was drawn.
Tripp moved, and the court refused, to suppress the blood evidence. Tripp, convicted, appealed. The court of appeals reversed, and the State sought certiorari. The Supreme Court found Tripp’s consent to be involuntary, and as such, affirmed the reversal. The consent was not voluntary because police coercion worked to overcome Tripp’s refusal. The acts of coercion were (1) various officers requesting the sample, (2) the assistance of the Victim Advocate to get the sample, and (3) the technician’s failure to warn Tripp before the draw, and (4) Tripp’s illegal arrest isolated her. For all these reasons, the Court found it appropriate to suppress the blood evidence.
In addition, the Court found that there was no probable cause and there was no exigent circumstance sufficient to warrant the police actions.
Full Decision available at http://www.utcourts.gov/opinions/supopin/Tripp021910.pdf
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