State v. Reynolds

Decision Date03 November 2016
Docket NumberNo. E2013-02309-SC-R11-CD,E2013-02309-SC-R11-CD
Citation504 S.W.3d 283
CourtTennessee Supreme Court
Parties STATE of Tennessee v. Corrin Kathleen REYNOLDS

Mark E. Stephens, District Public Defender; Jonathan P. Harwell, Assistant Public Defender; and Jim D. Owen, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Corrin K. Reynolds.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Jamie Carter, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Jeffrey A. DeVasher, Daniel A. Horwitz, and Richard L. Tennent, Nashville, Tennessee; and Ann C. Short, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

CORNELIA A. CLARK, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which JEFFREY S. BIVINS, C.J., and HOLLY KIRBY, JJ., joined. SHARON G. LEE, J., filed a dissenting opinion.



We granted this appeal to determine whether the warrantless blood draw violated the defendant's right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution, and, if so, whether the exclusionary rule applies and requires suppression of the evidence. We conclude that the warrantless blood draw violated the defendant's federal and state constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Nevertheless, we adopt the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229, 131 S.Ct. 2419, 180 L.Ed.2d 285 (2011), and as a result, hold that any evidence derived from testing the defendant's blood need not be suppressed because the warrantless blood draw was obtained in objectively reasonable good-faith reliance on binding precedent. On this basis, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

I. Factual Background

Sometime before 8:43 p.m. on the evening of October 29, 2011, a single-vehicle accident occurred in Knox County.2 Two occupants of the vehicle were killed in the accident, and two others in the vehicle, the defendant, Corrin K. Reynolds, and Shawn Page, were transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center ("UT Medical Center") for medical treatment. Deputy Lee Strzelecki, a member of the crash reconstruction team for the Knox County Sheriff's Department, was tasked with interviewing the survivors at UT Medical Center. After speaking with them, Deputy Strzelecki concluded that the defendant was driving the car when it crashed, so he asked medical personnel to obtain a sample of her blood. Believing the defendant had verbally consented to the blood draw, Deputy Strzelecki did not obtain a warrant nor advise the defendant that she could refuse the blood draw, or of the legal consequences under the implied consent law should she refuse. Deputy Strzelecki also did not arrest the defendant at that time. Rather, the defendant remained hospitalized for the ensuing seven days, receiving treatment for an open right radius and ulna fracture, six rib fractures, a lumbar compression fracture, a cervical fracture, a sternum fracture, and a mesenteric hematoma.

On April 17, 2012, about six months after the accident, the Knox County Grand Jury issued a presentment charging the defendant with two counts of vehicular homicide, Tenn. Code Ann. § 39–13–213 (2010), one count of vehicular assault, id.§ 39-13-106 (2010), one count of reckless endangerment, id.§ 39-13-103 (2010), and four counts of driving under the influence of an intoxicant, id.§ 55-10-401 (Supp. 2011). The defendant thereafter filed a motion to suppress any evidence derived from the blood sample obtained from her without a warrant on the night of the accident. As relevant to this appeal, the defendant argued that she neither actually nor impliedly consented to the warrantless blood draw. In response, the State argued that the defendant had given actual verbal consent to the blood draw and had impliedly consented to the blood draw pursuant to statute. See id.§ 55-10-406(a)(1), (f)(1), (f)(4) (Supp. 2011).3

At the hearing on the defendant's first motion to suppress, conducted on April 5, 2013, Deputy Strzelecki testified that, on October 29, 2011, he received a page at home at approximately 9:04 p.m., notifying him of "a single[-]vehicle crash with multiple occupants and ... possibly two deceased individuals."4 He was directed to interview the survivors, who had been transferred from the crash site to UT Medical Center for treatment. Deputy Strzelecki arrived at the hospital about thirty minutes after receiving the page. By the time he arrived, Deputy Strzelecki knew the identities of the survivors, and, based upon information received from other officers, he was "fairly certain" that the defendant was driving the vehicle when it crashed. Deputy Strzelecki "proceeded to make contact with both of them and decide if [he] needed to get blood draws." Because the accident resulted in two fatalities, Deputy Strzelecki stated that the blood draws "would have been mandatory under our investigation."

He spoke first with Mr. Page, who confirmed that he was a passenger and that the defendant was driving the vehicle. Deputy Strzelecki then located and spoke with the defendant. She was lying on a gurney in the emergency room, waiting to be transported to or from the x-ray department, "and she was alert and conscious and was talking to" him. Although they had only a "brief discussion because there was a lot of commotion with the ER, [the defendant] stated that she had been driving and that everybody in the car had been drinking." Deputy Strzelecki also smelled alcohol during his interaction with the defendant, and he administered the horizontal gaze nystagmus ("HGN") test.5 The trial court allowed Deputy Strzelecki to testify as an expert about the defendant's performance on the HGN test.6

Deputy Strzelecki stated that the defendant exhibited all six clues for a "distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation," caused by intoxication from alcohol or "[a]ny kind of a depressant, like a muscle relaxer or some kind of medication that has some depressant—a central nervous system depressant in it."7 When Deputy Strzelecki asked the defendant if she would submit to the taking of a blood sample, she responded, "Do whatever you have to do." Deputy Strzelecki interpreted this statement as the defendant verbally consenting to a blood draw, so he did not read her the implied consent form, advise her of the legal consequences of refusing consent, obtain her written consent, provide Miranda warnings,8 or place her under arrest. He explained that "[i]f a person consents, the procedure is we can get a blood draw. If the person refuses, at that point the implications of the implied consent violation are read to that person, and they're given another opportunity if they want to change their mind and decide to consent." At Deputy Strzelecki's request, a hospital phlebotomist came to the emergency department and, using the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation blood collection kit Deputy Strzelecki provided, drew two vials of blood from the defendant's arm. The vials were placed into the kit box, which was sealed, and Deputy Strzelecki later gave the sealed kit box to a forensic technician at the scene of the accident.9 Asked whether the defendant's consent was the only reason for the blood draw, Deputy Strzelecki answered, "The consent and the fact that we're—it was a double fatality. ... And also I smelled the alcohol and her admission of drinking and being the driver." He stated that he had reasonable suspicion that the defendant was driving while impaired.

In response to questioning by defense counsel, Deputy Strzelecki agreed that a medication known as Versed (also known as midazolam but hereinafter "Versed"), which the defendant had received before Deputy Strzelecki administered the HGN test, could have caused her to exhibit a positive effect on the HGN test. Deputy Strzelecki testified, however, that a "normal dosage, [and] therapeutic level" of the medication "wouldn't show a horizontal gaze nystagmus." Deputy Strzelecki acknowledged that he was not aware the defendant had received the medication when he administered the HGN test.

After the hearing on her first motion, but before the court ruled on her motion, the defendant filed an affidavit stating that she had no recollection of speaking with Deputy Strzelecki or consenting to the warrantless blood draw. She also filed copies of her medical records, including records from the paramedics who extricated her from the vehicle. These records indicated that the defendant was the driver of the vehicle, that she suffered a head injury and a compound fracture of her right radius/ulna, that her right pupil was "blown [and] non[-]reactive," that she reported not being able to see out of her right eye, and that she was "screaming she was deaf" while "holding her hearing aid in [her] hand." The defendant's right arm fracture was splinted with a pillow and her care transferred to LifeStar.10 The records indicated that defendant was unable to sign the form transferring her care because she was "immobilized."

LifeStar's medical records, which the defendant also submitted, identified her as the driver of the vehicle and described her as hearing impaired and as having an altered mental state, possibly due to "intoxicants." The defendant's chief complaint was recorded as, "My wrist hurts and I am cold!" Her pupils were described as "equal[,] round[,] and reactive." While en route to the hospital, she received intravenously, at 9:28 p.m., four milligrams of morphine for pain control, and at 9:29 p.m., two milligrams of Versed to calm her. At 9:35 p.m.,...

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