COA: Trial court properly dismissed motion to suppress blood draw in drunken driving case

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A drunken driver who killed another person in a two-car vehicle wreck has failed to convince the Court of Appeals of Indiana her blood test results should be suppressed from her trial.

Tina Isley was out with friends drinking when she was involved in a head-on collision that killed the other driver.

Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Hodson was informed as he followed the ambulance to the hospital that there was an open container of alcohol found in the woman’s car.

At the hospital, Hodson noticed Isley smelled of alcohol and was slurring so he asked if she would sign a form consenting to releasing her medical records to the state.

After signing, the nurse taking Isley’s blood incorrectly said the form gave her permission to do the blood draw. The blood draw showed an alcohol content of .144%.

The state charged Isley with Level 4 Felony causing death when operating a vehicle with an Alcohol Concentration Equivalent of .08 alongside four counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, as a Class A,Class B and two Class C misdemeanors.

Before trial, Isley moved to suppress her blood draw results and medical records. The trial court denied the motion, after which Isely filed an interlocutory appeal.

On appeal, Isley argued the use of her blood results and medical records violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment as well as Article 1, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution and Indiana’s implied consent laws.

Reviewing the case, the COA found the evidence shouldn’t be suppressed.

“Evidence from the record undercuts Isley’s argument. The record shows Isley consenting multiple times both in writing and orally,” Judge Leanna Weissmann wrote. “First, Isley gave her consent by signing the consent form. And even assuming that there was ambiguity at this time over what Isley was consenting to, Deputy Hodson cured this by rereading the implied consent form and again asking Isley orally to consent to the blood draw—which she did.  At no point during Isley’s conversations with Deputy Hodson did she show any sign of disagreement or unwillingness to provide her consent.”

The COA also found Isley’s arguments suggesting a low degree of police concern, suspicion, or knowledge to be unpersuasive and the “intrusiveness of the blood draw, and the search overall, was mitigated by the surrounding circumstances.”

“Under the totality of the circumstances, the blood draw and release of Isley’s medical records was reasonable,” Weissmann wrote, joined by a concurring Judge Elaine Brown.

Judge Melissa May wrote a separate opinion concurring in result, disagreeing with the majority’s decision to analyze the reasonableness of the blood draw under the Indiana Constitution through application of the Litchfield (v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 361 (Ind. 2005)) factors after having already determined Isley knowingly and voluntarily provided valid consent to that blood draw.

“I read both Hardin v. State, 148 N.E.3d 932 (Ind. 2020), which addressed the constitutionality of a search of a vehicle found on the curtilage of property when police had a search warrant for the home on the property, and Duran v. State, 930 N.E.2d 10 (Ind. 2010), which addressed the reasonableness of an apartment entry during the execution of an arrest warrant, as cases addressing whether police exceeded the proper scope of the warrants obtained,” May wrote.

“Here, the question is whether Isley validly consented to the blood draw, and that question is addressed with the same analysis under both our federal and state constitutions,” May continued. “As Isley does not challenge the reasonableness of the scope of the execution of her consent to the blood draw, there is no need to apply a Litchfield analysis.”

That case is Tina M. Isley v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-2837.

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