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State v. Charlson

Supreme Court of Idaho

August 5, 2016

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
KIRK MURRAY CHARLSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         2016 Opinion No. 87

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Boise County. Hon. Patrick H. Owen, District Judge.

         The district court's order denying the motion to suppress, affirmed.

          Sara Thomas, Idaho State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, attorney for appellant. Justin Curtis argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, attorney for respondent. Jessica Lorello argued.

          W. JONES, Justice.

         I. Nature of the Case

         Kirk Charlson ("Charlson") appeals from his conviction and subsequent withheld judgment for felony driving under the influence. Before the trial, Charlson filed a motion to suppress the results of an evidentiary blood draw that was conducted without a warrant. The district court denied the motion, and Charlson was convicted of felony driving under the influence after a jury trial in the Fourth Judicial District. Charlson appeals the denial of his motion to suppress the results of the evidentiary blood draw on the grounds that the draw violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         1. The Trial

         On June 11, 2012, Charlson was involved in a motorcycle crash near mile post 54 of State Highway 52 in Boise County. Deputy Rob Talitian ("Dep. Talitian") of the Boise County Sheriff's Office was dispatched to the accident at approximately 6:00 P.M. When Dep. Talitian arrived on the scene, he observed two motorcycles on their sides on the ground. Charlson was lying on the ground with several apparent injuries. Charlson told Dep. Talitian that he lost control when trying to navigate a turn and crashed.

         Dep. Talitian observed a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from Charlson. When Dep. Talitian requested Charlson's driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance, Charlson handed the deputy his license, and told him that the other documents were in the saddlebags of his motorcycle. Dep. Talitian opened the saddlebags, locating an expired registration card and an expired insurance card, as well as a soft cooler containing four empty beer cans. When asked, Charlson told the deputy that he had consumed two beers that day.

         At that time, an ambulance arrived on scene and the paramedics began attending to Charlson. Charlson was taken to the landing zone to await air transport to St. Luke's Hospital. The deputy then investigated the other motorcycle and its driver, which are not relevant to this appeal.

         While waiting for air transport, Charlson "told [Dep. Talitian] to get [his] breath tester and he would blow." Charlson first blew a 0.117, but when requested to blow a second time, he was "unable or unwilling to do so." Dep. Talitian requested that a blood sample be obtained from Charlson at the hospital. There is no contention that Dep. Talitian told Charlson that he was required to submit to the blood test.

         Charlson was transported by Life-Flight to St. Luke's Hospital in Boise. At St. Luke's, a licensed phlebotomist took a blood sample from Charlson. Forensic analysis determined that Charlson's blood-alcohol concentration ("BAC") was 0.102 grams/100ccs of blood, 0.022 above the legal limit of 0.08. Charlson had prior convictions for DUI in 2004 and 2005. He was charged with felony DUI by virtue of this being his third DUI within ten years, in violation of Idaho code section 18-8004. Charlson was formally charged by information on February 25, 2013. He pleaded not guilty.

         On April 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013). On May 21, 2013, Charlson filed a motion to suppress the evidence stemming from the warrantless blood draw, arguing that McNeely meant that Idaho's implied consent statute[1] could not be used to support a consent argument, and that McNeely also instructed that the circumstances in this case were not sufficiently exigent to justify the warrantless blood draw.

         A hearing regarding the motion was conducted on June 13, 2013. At this hearing, no evidence was presented by either party, but the parties did agree to certain stipulations as follows: (1) at the time of the arrest, there was no procedure in place for the Boise County Sheriff's Office to use Ada County magistrates to obtain warrants for blood draws for DUIs in Boise County; (2) there was no cellphone reception in the vicinity of the crash; and (3) Dep. Talitian had to remain on scene to continue his investigation after Charlson was transported. The parties both relied on their briefs filed before the court, which contained statements of facts not supported by any evidence.

         The district court noted the unusual procedure:

Each side has relied upon a statement of "facts" set forth in their respective briefs. These "facts" are not supported by reference to any testimony, or for that matter to any police report. This is highly unusual. Additionally, neither side objects to the facts as set forth by the other, or to the absence of any testimony to support the statement of "facts." The parties have not presented any evidence or testimony relating to the facts. The [c]ourt does not believe that this is an appropriate way to frame the facts in this, or in any other, case. However, as explained below, in this case, the [c]ourt concludes that there is basic agreement on the limited facts essential to this decision.

         Due to the confusion regarding the way the motion was tried, the district court requested documents from the parties, including a police report, probable cause statement, incident summary, and photographs. From these documents, the district court found the facts as described herein.

         The district court recognized that, having not obtained a search warrant to draw Charlson's blood, the State had the burden of establishing a valid exception to the warrant requirement. It found that the State met its burden of establishing that the consent exception applied. "In the [c]ourt's view, the consent issue is controlled by the Idaho Supreme Court's decision in State v. Diaz, 144 Idaho 300 (2007)." In Diaz, this Court found that the implied consent statute provides that by driving on Idaho's roads, defendants have consented to evidentiary testing, including blood draws. Therefore, according to Diaz, warrantless blood draws are permissible when the officer has probable cause to believe the defendant was driving while intoxicated, and when the blood draw is performed in a medically acceptable manner and without undue force. State v. Diaz, 144 Idaho 300, 303, 160 P.3d 739, 742 (2007), overruled by State v. Wulff, 157 Idaho 416, 423, 337 P.3d 575, 582 (2014).

         In the case before it, the district court found that there was probable cause to believe that Charlson was driving under the influence, and that the blood draw was done in a medically acceptable manner. Therefore, the district court concluded, ...


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