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State v. Lutton

Court of Appeals of Idaho

January 18, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
LAWRENCE R. LUTTON, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 4

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

         Order withholding judgment for vehicular manslaughter, affirmed.

          Robyn A. Fyffe, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Theodore S. Tollefson, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          GUTIERREZ, Judge

         Lawrence R. Lutton appeals from the district court's order withholding judgment for vehicular manslaughter. Specifically, he argues the district court erred in denying Lutton's motion to suppress evidence of his blood alcohol content. We affirm.


         At around 9 p.m., after enjoying a day at the reservoir with his children and some friends, Lutton began the drive back to town. Lutton drove his sons, ages two and four, in Lutton's two-wheel drive vehicle, following behind his friend's vehicle. At some point on the dirt road leading to the highway, Lutton hit washboard and lost control of his vehicle. The vehicle left the road and went into the reservoir.

         Lutton was able to escape the submerging vehicle and rescue his four-year-old son. The boy was not breathing when he was pulled from the water. Lutton's friend, having returned to where Lutton's vehicle left the road, was able to revive the boy by performing CPR. Lutton returned to the water to rescue his two-year-old son who was still strapped inside the submerged vehicle. After unbuckling and freeing him from his car seat, Lutton lost hold of the child. Lutton was unable to find his son in the water despite repeated attempts to locate him. Lutton's friend eventually forced Lutton to exit the water out of concern for Lutton's safety, as he was showing signs of hypothermia. Other people who had stopped to help continued to look for the two-year-old boy.

         Believing that Lutton and the four-year-old needed immediate medical treatment, Lutton's friend drove Lutton and his son from the accident site toward the hospital in town. Before they were able to reach the hospital, police officers observed the vehicle speeding with its hazard lights flashing. The officers stopped the vehicle to investigate, with one officer making contact with the driver and the other officer making contact with Lutton in the passenger's seat.

         Lutton and his friend told the officers about the crash and the need for medical attention. The officer who spoke with Lutton detected a slight odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle. Lutton was distraught and sobbing, but admitted to having consumed three beers between one and three o'clock that afternoon. Lutton's friend also admitted to drinking earlier in the day. The officers called for an ambulance to transport Lutton and his four-year-old son to the hospital. The officers dispatched an Idaho State Police (ISP) trooper to respond to the hospital to investigate Lutton for possible driving under the influence (DUI). After the ambulance arrived, the other officer spoke with Lutton while he was in the ambulance. The officer did not smell alcohol coming from Lutton's person. After the ambulance departed, the two officers remained at the scene to interview Lutton's friend further before traveling to the hospital themselves.

         Although there are differing accounts as to what happened at the hospital, the district court found the following facts. At the hospital, the original responding officers reconnected with Lutton in his treatment room. Lutton was seated on the bed wrapped in a blanket, without clothes. The officer that initially made contact with Lutton in the vehicle continued the investigation, asking Lutton questions about the day's activities and details about the accident. The officer did not detect any odor of alcohol or any other signs of intoxication. The officer did not conduct any sobriety tests. At this time, Lutton was no longer sobbing, did not appear as distraught as he had been earlier, and was able to understand and answer the officer's questions. The officer informed Lutton that an ISP trooper had been called to assist in the investigation and that the trooper would be reading Lutton an advisory form and obtaining a blood sample. When the ISP trooper arrived, the two officers stationed themselves outside the door of Lutton's treatment room.

         The trooper read the administrative license suspension advisory form to Lutton. While the trooper spoke with Lutton, the two-year-old boy arrived in the emergency room on a gurney and was placed in an adjacent treatment room. After seeing his son, Lutton was distraught and crying. At no time did the trooper restrict Lutton from seeing his son on the condition that Lutton first complete a blood draw. Lutton subsequently cooperated with a hospital nurse in providing a blood sample. Lutton did not affirmatively object, refuse, or physically resist the blood draw. Lutton was advised of the ...

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