State v. Armstrong, 56628

Decision Date26 October 1984
Docket NumberNo. 56628,56628
Citation236 Kan. 290,689 P.2d 897
PartiesSTATE of Kansas, Appellant, v. Marion M. ARMSTRONG, Appellee.
CourtKansas Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

In a prosecution for driving under the influence of alcohol, the results of a blood alcohol test, which was administered after a delay of slightly more than two hours, are not rendered inadmissible in evidence due to the delay. The length of the delay in time between the administration of the test and when the defendant last operated the motor vehicle goes to the weight and not the admissibility of the evidence. Such evidence should be admitted along with expert testimony estimating the defendant's blood alcohol content at the time of last driving.

R. Scott McQuin, County Atty., argued the cause, and Robert T. Stephan, Atty. Gen., was with him on brief for appellant.

Marion M. Armstrong, argued the cause pro se.

SCHROEDER, Chief Justice:

This is an appeal by the State on a question reserved pursuant to the provisions of K.S.A. 22-3602(b)(3).

The question arises from a ruling of the trial court suppressing evidence of blood alcohol test results. The ruling appealed from was made on the morning of the trial after the defendant filed a motion for an order in limine to exclude the test results. Subsequently, the defendant was acquitted by a jury of the offense of driving while under the influence of alcohol contrary to K.S.A.1983 Supp. 8-1567.

The facts relevant to the defendant's motion in limine are undisputed and upon being advised of the facts by counsel, the district court decided the motion without an evidentiary hearing. The relevant facts are as follows.

At 11:10 p.m. on July 15, 1983, a State Highway Patrol Trooper saw the defendant's car parked on a country road about 30 yards south of U.S. 160. Upon approaching the vehicle, the trooper saw that the car's engine was running and the defendant was unconscious behind the wheel. The defendant was awakened and, upon detecting the odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath, the trooper had the defendant perform certain field coordination tests, following which the defendant was arrested for driving while under the influence. The defendant admitted to the trooper that he had drunk four to five beers at a bar in Medicine Lodge, and that he had started drinking at about 8:00 p.m. No open containers were seen in or around the defendant's car.

Upon his arrest, the defendant was asked if he would submit to a blood alcohol test. The defendant indicated that he would and was transported to the hospital. Once inside the hospital and after reviewing the hospital consent forms, the defendant changed his mind and withdrew his consent to the test. Later, at the sheriff's office, the defendant changed his mind once again, and asked to be allowed to give a blood sample for testing. He was taken back to the hospital where blood was withdrawn at 12:40 a.m. The test disclosed that defendant's blood contained 0.12% alcohol by weight, creating prima facie evidence of intoxication pursuant to K.S.A. 8-1005(a)(2) which provides:

"[I]f there was at the time .10% or more by weight of alcohol in the defendant's blood, it shall be prima facie evidence that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely."

The time from arrest until the blood sample was taken was 90 minutes. The uncontradicted statement of the defendant was that he last drove his car not later than 10:30 p.m., 40 minutes prior to his arrest. Therefore, a total of two hours, ten minutes elapsed from the time the defendant drove his car until the blood was taken.

A trial to the jury was set for January 26, 1984. On the morning of January 26, the defendant filed a motion for an order in limine to exclude evidence of the results of the blood alcohol test on the ground that the blood sample tested was taken at a time too remote from the time the defendant last drove his vehicle. The pertinent parts of the motion are set forth:

"6. K.S.A. 8-1005 provides that evidence of the amount of alcohol in the defendant's blood at the time alleged ... may be admitted.

"7. Blood alcohol content does not remain constant; it is purely guess work and speculation whether the defendant's blood alcohol level was the same, lesser, or greater at the time he was driving versus the time of the blood test.

"8. It would be highly prejudicial to this defendant to undergo the presumption of under the influence when the actual blood test was remote in time." (Emphasis in original.)

The trial court sustained the motion on the ground of remoteness, and then noted that "when the defendant would not submit to the test when first taken to the hospital, the arresting officer should have reported the same to the Division of Vehicles pursuant to K.S.A. 8-1001, and should not have allowed the defendant to submit a blood sample subsequent to his initial refusal." If the blood test had not been administered, the defendant's refusal could have been used as evidence against him by the State. See K.S.A. 8-1001(c). The State did not raise as an issue whether the court was correct in the second part of its ruling when it held that a subsequent consent after an initial refusal was invalid. Since the issue was not raised, we need not address it. However, we note that we dealt with the "subsequent consent" problem in a recent case, Standish v. Department of Revenue, 235 Kan. 900, 683 P.2d 1276 (1984). In that case, we held an initial refusal may be changed or rescinded if done in accordance with the rules set forth in the opinion.

The single issue raised by the State is whether the trial court abused its power of discretion in suppressing evidence from a blood test given more than two hours after the defendant drove his car on the ground that it was too remote in time to have any probative value as to the defendant's condition when he was driving.

The State argues the trial court erred in suppressing the blood test results. It contends that a question of remoteness goes only to the weight of the evidence and not its admissibility. To support this contention, the State relies on State v. Parson, 226 Kan. 491, 601 P.2d 680 (1979). There the defendant was involved in a two-car collision while under the influence of alcohol and was charged with involuntary manslaughter. He was given a blood alcohol test approximately 45 minutes after the collision. The test showed the defendant's blood alcohol level to be 0.14% by weight. This evidence was admitted and the defendant was convicted as charged.

On appeal, the defendant claimed the trial court erred in admitting the blood alcohol test results because the blood sample was taken approximately 45 minutes after the accident, and, therefore, the test results were unreliable, inaccurate, and contained no probative value. He also argued that K.S.A. 8-1005 requires that the percentage of alcohol found must show the percentage at the time of the accident. In holding otherwise, this court stated:

"A claim of remoteness with evidence of this type goes only to the weight of the evidence, not to its admissibility. State v. Betts, 214 Kan. 271, 276, 519 P.2d 655 (1974)....

"... We find the results of the blood alcohol test were properly admitted into evidence. The time which elapsed between the accident and its discovery and the taking of defendant's blood goes only to the weight of the evidence received." 226 Kan. at 495, 601 P.2d 680.

We agree with the State that the fundamental difference between the Parson case and the case at hand is the amount of delay time involved. Therefore, we have reviewed cases from other states with similar statutes which have a bearing on the point.

Delays prior to the administration of a blood test appear to be quite common, often due to the length of time involved in transporting the defendant to a medical facility. In dealing with this "delay problem" courts generally find that if a defendant is placed in custody immediately and remains under the control of officers or others and consumes no more alcohol before the test is given, a conviction may be based upon the results of the delayed testing along with expert testimony estimating the blood alcohol level at the time...

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7 cases
  • Com. v. Smith, 92-P-1805
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • February 1, 1994
    ...Ullman v. Overnight Transp. Co., 563 F.2d 152 (5th Cir.1977). People v. Emery, 812 P.2d 665, 667 (Colo.App.1990). State v. Armstrong, 236 Kan. 290, 689 P.2d 897, 899-900 (1984). State v. Bradley, 578 P.2d 1267 (Utah 1978). State v. Carter, 142 Vt. 588, 590, 458 A.2d 1112 (1983). Indeed, in ......
  • State v. Kelly, 88-197
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • October 19, 1988
    ...therefore result in a decrease, not an increase, in the defendant's blood alcohol concentration. See, e.g., State v. Armstrong, 236 Kan. 290, 294, 689 P.2d 897, 901 (1984); Willis v. State, 302 Md. 363, 380, 488 A.2d 171, 180 Further support for the conclusion the two-hour limit is not a fo......
  • Com. v. Slingerland
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Superior Court
    • December 15, 1986
    ...rates that without expert testimony they could formulate a conclusion on the matter beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Armstrong, 236 Kan. 290, 689 P.2d 897 (1984) (peak alcohol level may occur any time from forty to seventy minutes after consumption; thereafter the system eliminates a......
  • State v. Pendleton, 68390
    • United States
    • Kansas Court of Appeals
    • March 26, 1993
    ...court did not err by admitting and relying upon the test results, the State relies on our Supreme Court's decision in State v. Armstrong, 236 Kan. 290, 689 P.2d 897 (1984), in which the court "In a prosecution for driving under the influence of alcohol, the results of a blood alcohol test, ......
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