COA: Totality of facts support blood seizure

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A blood sample seized by the state from an unconscious woman didn't violate her rights under the Fourth Amendment because all of the circumstances surrounding the car accident involving the woman led to a fair probability she drove a car while drunk, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In Samara J. Copas v. State of Indiana, No. 33A01-0801-CR-3, Samara Copas appealed the trial court's denial of her motion to suppress a blood sample taken by the state after obtaining a search warrant. Copas was involved in a car accident with another vehicle and a passerby found her lying unconscious outside her Suburban on the driver's side. The passerby noticed broken alcoholic beverage containers in the car and the smell of alcohol coming from the Suburban. The driver of a small SUV involved the accident died at the scene.

The Henry County Sheriff's Department got a search warrant to get a blood sample from Copas, who was unconscious and unable to give her consent.

The warrant was based on the belief of the sheriff's deputy who responded to the crash that Copas was involved in an accident, her car smelled of alcohol, and there were alcoholic beverage containers in view in the car.

The blood sample allegedly revealed Copas' blood alcohol content was 0.15 and she had cocaine in her system. She was charged with causing death when operating a motor vehicle with alcohol in the body, causing death when operating a motor vehicle with schedule II controlled substance in the body, and reckless homicide. The trial court denied Copas' motion to suppress the blood evidence on grounds the warrant lacked probable cause.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reviewed the search warrant obtained by the sheriff's department and found there was probable cause that her blood would reveal evidence of criminal behavior, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

Taken individually, the facts supporting the search warrant don't establish probable cause, as Copas argued, but the appellate court has to consider the totality of the circumstances rather than facts in isolation, he wrote.

The totality of the circumstances show with fair probability Copas operated the Suburban while intoxicated.

"While Copas might ultimately challenge the sufficiency of the State's evidence at trial, her arguments are not enough to defeat the 'fair probability' that she operated the vehicle while intoxicated, which is all that is required for probable cause," wrote the judge.

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.