State v. Turpin

Decision Date11 December 1980
Docket NumberNo. 46969-5,46969-5
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Virginia L. TURPIN, Petitioner.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Ronald B. Webster, Colfax, for petitioner.

Ronald R. Carpenter, Whitman County Prosecutor, Colfax, for respondent.

HOROWITZ, Justice.

Defendant Virginia Turpin's automobile crossed the centerline on SH 195 south of Colton and collided with another vehicle at approximately 9:30 p. m. on August 8, 1977. The driver of the other car died in the crash. State Highway Patrol Sergeant Brackin arrived at the scene at 10:25 p. m. In extricating defendant from her vehicle in which she was pinned, Sgt. Brackin smelled alcohol on her breath.

Defendant was taken to a hospital in Pullman with multiple injuries. Sgt. Brackin, after interviewing witnesses at the scene, went to the Pullman hospital emergency room. Ms. Turpin was being treated for a broken jaw, but she was alert, responsive, and able to understand verbal communications. Sgt. Brackin did not however, speak with her. He testified that Ms. Turpin appeared to be in a great deal of pain, that he was uncertain of her physical and emotional condition, and that he did not wish to upset the injured woman by speaking with her. Instead, he told the doctor and nurse treating Ms. Turpin that she was under arrest for negligent homicide. He had the nurse draw a blood sample from Ms. Turpin in order to determine the alcohol content of her blood. Sgt. Brackin at no time told Ms. Turpin that she was under arrest, that a blood alcohol sample was to be taken, or that she had the right to have independent blood tests performed. Ms. Turpin first found out that a blood alcohol sample had been taken three days later, when another state trooper interviewed her at the hospital.

Ms. Turpin was subsequently charged with negligent homicide. RCW 46.61.520. She moved to suppress the results of the blood alcohol test either because she had not been under the arrest at the time the sample was taken, or because any arrest away from the scene of the accident was illegal, or finally because she had not been advised of her right under RCW 46.20.308(1) 1 to have independent tests performed. The motion was denied and the tests results were admitted. Defendant was convicted of the offense of negligent homicide. The Court of Appeals affirmed, 25 Wash.App. 493, 607 P.2d 885, finding that Ms. Turpin's warrantless arrest and the taking of the blood sample did not violate her statutory rights. Judge McInturff dissented solely on the ground that the officer had failed to apprise Ms. Turpin of her right to independent testing.

Defendant's petition for review to this court was granted only on the third issue regarding the duty to inform her of the right to additional independent testing. The Court of Appeals' decision that evidence of the state's blood alcohol test need not be suppressed was based on State v. Carranza, 24 Wash.App. 311, 600 P.2d 701 (1979). Carranza held that the "independent testing" disclosure required by RCW 46.20.308(1) is not constitutionally mandated when the defendant is arrested for negligent homicide. The state has not argued that any general exemption for disclosure should be created in this case because of Ms. Turpin's physical or emotional condition at the time the state's blood sample was drawn. Thus, we must consider only whether an individual arrested for negligent homicide must be apprised of her right to have additional blood tests performed. Answering the question in the affirmative, we must reverse Ms. Turpin's conviction and remand the cause for a new trial consistent with our reasoning set forth below.

Carranza is not controlling in this case because it considered only the constitutional right to be apprised of independent testing. In Carranza, the defendant had failed to object to admission of state blood alcohol tests at trial and thus was limited on appeal to asserting violation of his constitutional rights to notice. The court never stated that disclosure is not required by statute, but instead noted only that

Although it may be preferable to tell a driver who has been arrested for negligent homicide that he has the right to have additional tests, the lack of such information does not rise to the level of a constitutional denial of due process.

State v. Carranza, supra, at 315, 600 P.2d 701 (Italics ours). Thus, the Carranza court concluded that "Carranza had no constitutional right to notice that he had the right to additional tests." State v. Carranza, supra at 316, 600 P.2d 701 (Italics ours.)

Ms. Turpin, however, asserts a statutory right to notice under RCW 46.20.308(1). RCW 46.20.308(1) provides:

Any person who operates a motor vehicle upon the public highways of this state shall be deemed to have given consent, subject to the provisions of RCW 46.61.506, to a chemical test or tests of his breath or his blood ... (The arresting) officer shall inform the person of his right to refuse the test, and of his right to have additional tests administered by any qualified person of his choosing as provided in RCW 46.61.506.

The portion of the statute especially relevant to the instant action provides, however:

That if an individual is under arrest for the crime of negligent homicide ... a breath or blood test may be administered without the consent of the individual so arrested.

As noted by the court in Carranza, this language was added to the informed consent statute after the courts of this state had ruled that the failure to inform the defendant of the right to revoke consent or to independent testing would result in exclusion of the blood alcohol test results. State v. Wetherell, 82 Wash.2d 865, 514 P.2d 1069 (1973); State v. Krieg, 7 Wash.App. 20, 497 P.2d 621 (1972).

The legislature is presumed to be aware of court interpretation of its earlier enactments, State v. Fenter, 89 Wash.2d 57, 62, 569 P.2d 67 (1977), and thus it can be presumed that the legislature intended to change the law through amendment of RCW 46.20.308(1). The state argues that the amendment means that there is no longer any reason to apprise a negligent homicide defendant of the right to independent testing because she has no right to refuse the state's test.

Statutory interpretation of the sort suggested by the state is necessary only when the language of a statute is ambiguous. Vita Food Products, Inc. v. State, 91 Wash.2d 132, 134, 587 P.2d 535 (1978). A reading of RCW 46.20.308 demonstrates there is no uncertainty with which the disclosure limits suggested by the state can, however, be reconciled. From the fact that the defendant cannot object to state testing it does not inexorably, or even logically, follow that the defendant must also be kept ignorant of his right to independent testing. The statute itself merely states that the state may administer its test without consent; it in no way implies that the right to independent testing or the right to be aware of independent testing is thereby lost. The requirement that the "officer ... inform the person ... of his right to have additional tests" is based on the independent statutory right to additional testing found in RCW 46.61.506(5):

The person tested (by the state) may have a ... qualified person of his own choosing administer a chemical test or tests in addition to any administered at the direction of a law enforcement officer.

The provisions of RCW 46.20.308(1) are explicitly "subject to the provisions of RCW 46.61.506," including this right to independent testing.

Retaining the independent duty to inform of the right to additional testing is not inconsistent with...

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36 cases
  • Green v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • April 16, 1998
    ...Court expressly stated that this requirement is based upon a statutory right rather than a constitutional right. State v. Turpin, 94 Wash.2d 820, 620 P.2d 990, 991-92 (1980) Additionally, as United States Supreme Court Justice O'Connor stated "persons are presumed to know their rights under......
  • State v. Barker, 22383-0-II.
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • December 17, 1999
    ...right to counsel "is only warranted where ... the evidence to be suppressed has been tainted by the violation"); State v. Turpin, 94 Wash.2d 820, 826, 620 P.2d 990 (1980) (excluding evidence where police failed to inform the defendant of her statutory right to independent blood testing, bec......
  • State v. Morales
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • January 5, 2010
    ...does not negate the independent requirement to inform the arrestee of his right to additional, independent testing. State v. Turpin, 94 Wash.2d 820, 823, 620 P.2d 990 (1980). Therefore, the trial court erred in ruling that the statutory notice of the right to testing was not required in lig......
  • State of Wash. v. RUSSELL, 26789-0-III
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • April 6, 2011
    ...make arrest for limited purpose of obtaining forensic blood draw under the implied consent statute), rev'd on other grounds, 94 Wn.2d 820, 620 P.2d 990 (1980). 2. Interstate Mutual Aid Agreement In his 2001 suppression motion, Mr. Russell contended that no mutual aid agreement existed betwe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • A New Approach to Statutory Interpretation in Washington
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 25-04, June 2002
    • Invalid date
    ...1018, 1022 (1989); Garvey v. St. Elizabeth Hosp., 103 Wash. 2d 756, 759, 697 P.2d 248, 249 (1985); State v. Turpin, 94 Wash. 2d 820, 825, 620 P.2d 990, 993 (1980); State v. Wright, 84 Wash. 2d 645, 652, 529 P.2d 453, 78. See, e.g., Welch v. Southland Corp., 134 Wash. 2d 629, 636, 952 P.2d 1......

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