ILNews

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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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