Justices consider procedures in OWI blood-draw suppression case

Indiana Supreme Court justices said Thursday they will have to determine whether to grant transfer in a wrong-way-driver case focused on the suppression of a post-crash blood draw from a driver who had been an Indianapolis police recruit.

In State of Indiana v. Wesley Ryder, 18A-CR-02325, Wesley Ryder was charged with several felonies after allegedly driving southbound onto the northbound lanes of I-465 and crashing into another vehicle in June 2015. Ryder subsequently failed a field sobriety test and was taken by a state trooper to the Marion County Arrestee Processing Center to obtain a search warrant for a blood draw.

The judge, who could not meet with the trooper until later that morning, signed a prepared probable cause affidavit and a proposed search warrant when the two met at a gas station later that morning. Ryder was then taken to a local hospital, where the blood draw was conducted. The blood draw concluded Ryder had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.11%, above the legal limit for operating while intoxicated. He later was charged with Level 6 felony felony criminal recklessness and two misdemeanor operating while intoxicated counts.

After his blood draw, the trooper returned Ryder to the APC, where the warrant and affidavit also were left for the clerk. Those papers were ultimately lost, but copies provided by the hospital were later obtained.

The Marion Superior Court granted Ryder’s motion to suppress the blood draw before trial, concluding the trooper had failed to file the probable cause affidavit before presenting it to the judge. It also found that the blood draw test results were not admissible under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule, which a split Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in a memorandum decision.

During argument Thursday, Justice Christopher Goff noted his initial concerns with the Ryder case about why no judicial officer was available for three hours at Marion County’s 24-hour clerk’s office.

“This case was probably messed up as a result of that,” Goff said. “… My concern is, aren’t we using bad law to make state law if we grant transfer in this case?”

No, said deputy attorney general Angela Sanchez. She suggested that the Supreme Court could accept the version of events as the trial court found them to be and not alter the fundamental legal questions that need to be decided.

Concerning the issue of what it means to “file,” Sanchez said she believes “filing” as used in Ryder is an ambiguous term.

“But, there is a tremendous amount of cases interpreting that, which seems to come to the conclusion that filing is whatever process with whatever person puts it in the permanent record,” she said. “The state’s satisfied that that is a sufficient definition in the sense that ultimately, the purpose of filing is to create a record that can be subjected to review in the future.”

Justice Steven David questioned Sanchez as to what about the Ryder case causes the state so much consternation.

“This case is the evidence that we had a problem already. We’ve been fighting about this issue for a century,” Sanchez said. “We began arguing about what it means to file and when it’s good enough in an age before photo copiers.”

She said the state proposes that the Supreme Court should state what the filing requirement is in the constitutional standards for obtaining a warrant.

For his part, attorney John Fierek, who represents Ryder, stated he thinks the statute is clear.

“You simply file the affidavit prior to the warrant being issued. If you don’t, the warrant’s not properly issued,” Fierek said. “… I believe that had this affidavit simply been left with Judge [Barbara] Crawford and then she filed it, she would have compiled with Trial Rule 5.”

The justices said they would discuss the case, with the first issue being whether to grant transfer and then issuing an opinion.

Oral argument in the case can be viewed here.

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