Opinion No. 51
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.
of the district court, on intermediate appeal, affirming the
magistrate's denial of motion to suppress, reversed.
Trimming, Ada County Public Defender; Elizabeth Estess,
Deputy Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.
Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen,
Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
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.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
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
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.
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.
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.
magistrate denied Townsend's motion to suppress,
determining that: (1) implied consent was given as a matter
of Idaho law; 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.
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