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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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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