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State v. Townsend

Court of Appeals of Idaho

July 27, 2016

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
THOMAS TOWNSEND, Defendant-Appellant.

         2016 Opinion No. 51

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Gerald F. Schroeder, District Judge; Hon. John Hawley Jr., Magistrate.

         Decision of the district court, on intermediate appeal, affirming the magistrate's denial of motion to suppress, reversed.

          Alan Trimming, Ada County Public Defender; Elizabeth Estess, Deputy Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          GUTIERREZ, Judge

         Thomas Townsend appeals from the district court's decision, on intermediate appeal, affirming the magistrate's denial of his motion to suppress blood draw evidence. Townsend specifically argues exigent circumstances did not exist to justify his warrantless blood draw. For the reasons explained below, we reverse the district court.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In March 2013, at approximately 1:30 a.m., an officer pulled over a pickup truck after observing the truck drive the wrong way down a street. As he approached the truck, the officer smelled a strong odor of alcohol coming from the truck cab. He noticed that the driver, Townsend, had glassy, red eyes and his speech was slurred. The officer also smelled alcohol on Townsend's breath. Townsend indicated he had just left a bar.

         The officer requested that dispatch send another officer to the scene for a DUI investigation. The second officer arrived approximately ten minutes later. Townsend was then instructed to exit the vehicle. Upon Townsend admitting he had consumed seven beers at the bar, he submitted to three standardized field sobriety tests. Townsend failed each of the tests, and he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. Townsend was placed in the backseat of the patrol vehicle and was played the Administrative License Suspension audio, which notifies suspects of the potential penalties for refusing to submit to evidentiary testing.

         After waiting fifteen minutes, the officer requested that Townsend submit to a breath test and explained how to do the test. Townsend blew into the breathalyzer but the breath sample was insufficient. The officer again explained how to conduct the breath test, and indicated that he would need a blood sample from Townsend if Townsend did not comply with the breath test. Townsend failed to exhale air on his second attempt and refused to comply with the breath test, stating that the officer would have to draw his blood. Townsend was then transported to jail, where a paramedic drew blood samples from Townsend at 3 a.m.

         The State charged Townsend with driving under the influence and failure to purchase a driver's license. Townsend filed a motion to suppress the blood draw evidence, arguing exigent circumstances did not exist to justify his warrantless blood draw. In response, and in addition to the State's brief in objection to the motion, the State filed an affidavit from an officer. The affidavit stated that the time to obtain a warrant for a DUI case in March 2013 would be no less than one hour and thirty minutes. The affidavit also noted that telephonic and expedited warrants were not available in Ada County in March 2013.

         The magistrate denied Townsend's motion to suppress, determining that: (1) implied consent was given as a matter of Idaho law;[1] and (2) the anticipated delays in the warrant application process created an exigent circumstance sufficient to justify the warrantless blood draw. Townsend entered a conditional guilty plea, preserving his right to appeal the magistrate's denial of his motion to suppress.

          The district court, on intermediate appeal, affirmed the magistrate's denial. In concluding that an exigency existed to justify Townsend's warrantless blood draw, the district court noted the absence of immediate access to warrants in March 2013. The district court additionally considered Idaho's bar to prosecution when a suspected drunk driver has a blood alcohol content below the statutory legal limit--which, due to the natural dissipation of blood alcohol ...


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