People v. Smith, 10SA396.

CourtSupreme Court of Colorado
Citation254 P.3d 1158
Docket NumberNo. 10SA396.,10SA396.
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff–Appellantv.Joshua Alex SMITH, Defendant–Appellee.
Decision Date06 June 2011


Carol Chambers, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District, Andrew Cooper, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Centennial, Colorado, Attorneys for PlaintiffAppellant.Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender, Jessica Schmidt, Deputy Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for DefendantAppellee.Justice RICE delivered the Opinion of the Court.

Plaintiff-appellant the People of the State of Colorado (People) appeal the district court's suppression of the results of tests performed on blood drawn from defendant-appellee Joshua Alex Smith following a car accident. The district court, relying on the court of appeals' decision in People v. Maclaren, 251 P.3d 578 (Colo.App.2010) (selected for official publication), held that the officers' failure to ask for Smith's consent prior to having a nurse draw his blood violated Colorado's express consent statute. Upon review, we conclude that the statute does not require police officers to ask for a defendant's consent prior to proceeding with a constitutionally proper, involuntary blood draw following a suspected vehicular assault. Accordingly, we overrule Maclaren and reverse the district court's suppression order.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Police officers reported to the scene of a single-car rollover accident on Interstate 225. Smith, who was outside of the car, told the police that the driver of the car had left the scene. The police suspected that Smith was intoxicated. A passenger extricated from the car then told the police that “Joshua” was the driver of the car. The police found another passenger unconscious next to the car with serious injuries.

Paramedics then took Smith to the hospital, where a police officer ordered a nurse to draw blood samples from Smith. The officer did not have a search warrant or ask for Smith's consent to draw blood, and did not tell Smith that the nurse was going to do so. The nurse drew one blood sample, after which another officer advised Smith of his Miranda rights, which Smith waived, and interviewed him about the incident. The nurse then drew two more blood samples. Smith did not object to, resist, complain about, or question any of the three blood draws. The police later performed tests on the three blood samples.

After a suppression hearing, the district court concluded that: (1) the police had probable cause to arrest Smith for vehicular assault at the time of the blood draws; (2) the blood would provide evidence of Smith's level of intoxication; and (3) the potential for evidence of Smith's blood alcohol level to dissipate warranted drawing the blood without obtaining a search warrant. The district court nevertheless suppressed the results of tests performed on the blood, concluding that the express consent statute required the police to ask Smith for his consent prior to drawing the blood. The People appealed to this Court, seeking interlocutory review of the suppression order.

II. Analysis
A. Jurisdiction

The People assert that this Court has interlocutory jurisdiction over this case under section 16–12–102(2), C.R.S. (2010), and C.A.R. 4.1(a). We disagree, but conclude that our exercise of original jurisdiction under the Colorado Constitution and C.A.R. 21 is nevertheless appropriate.

1. Interlocutory Jurisdiction

C.A.R. 4.1(a) vests this Court with jurisdiction to hear interlocutory appeals by the People of three types of adverse suppression rulings: (1) the suppression of evidence obtained via an unlawful search and seizure pursuant to Crim. P. 41(e); (2) the suppression of an involuntary confession or admission pursuant to Crim. P. 41(g); and (3) the suppression of improperly ordered or insufficiently supported nontestimonial identification pursuant to Crim. P. 41.1(i). People v. Null, 233 P.3d 670, 674 (Colo.2010) (citing People v. Braunthal, 31 P.3d 167, 171 (Colo.2001)). We will not exercise jurisdiction under C.A.R. 4.1(a) outside of these “extremely narrow” circumstances. Id. at 674–75 (quoting Braunthal, 31 P.3d at 171; citing People v. McNulty, 173 Colo. 491, 493, 480 P.2d 560, 561 (1971)).

The People contend that Smith's suppression motion falls under Crim. P. 41(e), and that the district court's suppression order therefore vests this Court with jurisdiction under C.A.R. 4.1(a). We disagree.

Crim. P. 41(e) facilitates the suppression of evidence only on the grounds that it was obtained pursuant to an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, not that it was obtained in violation of a statute. People v. Fidler, 175 Colo. 90, 94–95, 485 P.2d 725, 727 (1971) (“That each of the enumerated grounds [in Crim. P. 41(e) ] is bottomed on Fourth Amendment rights is too clear to need further discussion.”); see also People v. Lindsey, 660 P.2d 502, 505 (Colo.1983) ( “Each of the grounds enumerated in Crim. P. 41(e) and 41(g) is premised on Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, or Fourteenth Amendment rights) (citing Fidler, 175 Colo. 90, 485 P.2d 725). Accordingly, this Court cannot exercise jurisdiction under C.A.R. 4.1(a) to provide interlocutory review of a suppression order based exclusively on a non-constitutional, statutory violation. See Null, 233 P.3d at 674, 678 (no C.A.R. 4.1(a) jurisdiction over appeal of order suppressing evidence obtained pursuant to an alleged non-constitutional violation of the express consent statute); Fidler, 485 P.2d at 727 (no C.A.R. 4.1(a) jurisdiction over appeal of order suppressing evidence obtained pursuant to an alleged non-constitutional violation of a doctor-patient privilege statute) (citing People v. Thornburg, 173 Colo. 230, 477 P.2d 372 (1970)).

Here, Smith sought suppression of the tests performed on his blood, contending that the drawing of his blood violated his rights under the express consent statute, or alternatively under the Fourth Amendment. While the Fourth Amendment violation alleged by Smith fell under the rubric of Crim. P. 41(e),1 the district court rejected that allegation and instead premised its suppression order entirely on the grounds that the blood draws violated the “non-constitutional rights” afforded to Smith under the express consent statute. Thus, the district court's suppression order was not based on a Fourth Amendment violation, and therefore cannot have been based on Crim. P. 41(e). Because the suppression order had no basis in Crim. P. 41(e) and did not conceivably implicate Crim. P. 41(g) or 41.1(i), this Court lacks any proper grounds to review the order under C.A.R. 4.1(a).

2. Original Jurisdiction

If interlocutory review is inappropriate under C.A.R. 4.1(a), this Court may nevertheless exercise its discretionary authority to review the merits of a case as an original proceeding pursuant to article VI, section 3 of the Colorado Constitution and C.A.R. 21. Null, 233 P.3d at 675 (citing Braunthal, 31 P.3d at 167). In Null, we concluded that exercising original jurisdiction was appropriate where the wrongful suppression of evidence pursuant to the express consent statute posed significant impediments to the prosecution's case, and where forcing the prosecution to wait for post-acquittal appellate relief would preclude retrial on double jeopardy grounds. Id. We find similar concerns at issue here, and therefore conclude that this case warrants our exercise of original jurisdiction. Accordingly, we turn to the substance of the People's appeal.

B. Involuntary Blood Draws and the Requirements of the Express Consent Statute

The district court premised its suppression order on the failure of the police to ask Smith for his consent prior to having the nurse draw his blood. The Fourth Amendment imposes “stringently limited conditions” on the ability of the police to order blood draws on drivers suspected of alcohol-related offenses. Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 772, 86 S.Ct. 1826, 16 L.Ed.2d 908 (1966).2 There is no Fourth Amendment requirement, however, that the police obtain a driver's consent prior to drawing his blood. E.g., People v. Smith, 175 Colo. 212, 214–15, 486 P.2d 8, 9 (1971) (citing Schmerber, 384 U.S. 757, 86 S.Ct. 1826).

The district court, however, interpreted Colorado's express consent statute, section 42–4–1301.1, C.R.S. (2010), applied to vehicular assaults by section 18–3–205(4)(a), C.R.S. (2010), as including an extra-constitutional requirement that the police ask for the consent of a driver suspected of vehicular assault under the meaning of section 18–3–205(1)(b)(I), C.R.S. (2010), before drawing his blood. We review statutory interpretation by lower courts de novo. People v. Disher, 224 P.3d 254, 256 (Colo.2010) (citing Klinger v. Adams Cnty. Sch. Dist. No. 50, 130 P.3d 1027, 1031 (Colo.2006)). When interpreting statutes, our primary task is to give effect to the intent of the general assembly and the purpose of the legislative scheme. Id. (citing People v. Yascavage, 101 P.3d 1090, 1093 (Colo.2004); Klinger, 130 P.3d at 1031). In doing so, we read the scheme as a whole, giving consistent, harmonious, and sensible effect to all its parts. People v. Williamson, 249 P.3d 801, 803 (Colo.2011) (citing People v. Luther, 58 P.3d 1013, 1015 (Colo.2002)). This recognition of the legislature's overall intent must prevail over a literal interpretation of the statute that would lead to a contrary result. Henisse v. First Transit, Inc., 247 P.3d 577, 579 (Colo.2011) (citing State v. Nieto, 993 P.2d 493, 501 (Colo.2000)).

Section 42–4–1301.1(1) and (2)(a)(I) require anyone driving a motor vehicle in Colorado to consent to testing of the alcoholic content of his or her breath or blood if a police officer has probable cause to believe that the driver has committed an alcohol-related driving violation. See generally Null, 233 P.3d at 678–82 (describing in detail the operation of the express...

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