State v. Van Linn, 2019AP1317-CR

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtREBECCA FRANK DALLET, J.
Citation401 Wis.2d 1,971 N.W.2d 478,2022 WI 16
Parties STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Daniel J. VAN LINN, Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner.
Docket Number2019AP1317-CR
Decision Date24 March 2022

401 Wis.2d 1
971 N.W.2d 478
2022 WI 16

STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Daniel J. VAN LINN, Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner.

No. 2019AP1317-CR

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

Oral Argument: October 27, 2021
Opinion Filed: March 24, 2022


For the defendant-appellant-petitioner, there were briefs filed by Andrew R. Hinkel, assistant state public defender. There was an oral argument by Andrew R. Hinkel.

For the plaintiff-respondent, there was a brief filed by John W. Kellis, assistant attorney general; with whom on the brief was Joshua L. Kaul, attorney general. There was an oral argument by John W. Kellis.

DALLET, J., delivered the majority opinion of the Court, in which ZIEGLER, C.J., ROGGENSACK, REBECCA GRASSL BRADLEY, HAGEDORN, and KAROFSKY, JJ., joined. ANN WALSH BRADLEY, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

REBECCA FRANK DALLET, J.

401 Wis.2d 4

¶1 After crashing his car, Daniel Van Linn was taken to the hospital, where two blood tests were performed: the first one by the hospital for diagnostic and treatment purposes; a later one at the direction of a sheriff's deputy for investigative purposes. Both blood tests revealed that Van Linn's blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) was over the legal limit. The circuit court suppressed the results of the deputy's blood test, concluding that the deputy's blood draw violated the Fourth Amendment because the deputy did not have a warrant. The State then subpoenaed the hospital for Van Linn's medical records,

401 Wis.2d 5

which included the hospital's diagnostic blood-test results. Van Linn argues that those results should be suppressed under the Fourth Amendment's exclusionary rule because the State subpoenaed the hospital only after it learned from the deputy's unlawful blood draw that Van Linn's BAC was over the legal limit. The issue is whether hospital's blood-test results are nevertheless admissible under the independent-source doctrine, an exception to the exclusionary rule. We hold that they are, and therefore affirm the court of appeals.

I

¶2 Around 2:00 a.m. one Sunday morning, the Oconto County Sheriff's Office responded to a call about a car accident on a rural road in the Town of Mountain. When a deputy arrived, he found Van Linn's car crashed into the back of a cabin. The subsequent investigation revealed that Van Linn was driving to his cabin when he thought he saw an oncoming car in his lane and swerved to avoid it. He veered off the road and into a ditch, where he hit a tree. He then drove back onto the road, crossing both lanes of traffic before continuing into a ditch on the other side of the road, over a hill, and through a field, eventually crashing into the back of someone's cabin.

¶3 Ambulance personnel found Van Linn lying on the ground across the street. He had a bump and some blood on his forehead and his hands were bleeding. Van Linn claimed to know nothing about the accident and denied that he was driving.

971 N.W.2d 481

The deputy noted a "moderate odor of alcohol" coming from Van Linn, and Van Linn told the deputy that he had drank "two beers" earlier that evening. The deputy learned that because Van Linn had four prior OWI (operating

401 Wis.2d 6

while intoxicated) convictions, he was subject to a BAC limit of 0.02 and his driving privileges were revoked.1

¶4 Van Linn was taken to the hospital. At 3:55 a.m., hospital personnel performed a "diagnostic workup," which included drawing Van Linn's blood. The results of that blood test revealed that Van Linn's BAC was 0.226. Not long after, the deputy arrived at the hospital and, based on his investigation at the accident scene, arrested Van Linn for his fifth OWI. At the time of Van Linn's arrest, the deputy was unaware of the hospital's blood draw and its results.

¶5 Following his arrest, Van Linn admitted that he had in fact been driving and that he was the one who called the police to report the crash. The deputy asked Van Linn to consent to a blood draw, which Van Linn refused. Nevertheless, at his lieutenant's direction and without a warrant, the deputy had Van Linn's blood drawn at approximately 4:15 a.m., about twenty minutes after the hospital had taken Van Linn's blood. A test of this second sample showed that Van Linn's BAC was 0.205.

¶6 In the circuit court,2 Van Linn moved to suppress the results of the deputy's blood draw because the deputy did not have a warrant and no exceptions to the warrant requirement applied. The State argued that the deputy did not need a warrant because the natural dissipation of alcohol in Van

401 Wis.2d 7

Linn's bloodstream was an exigent circumstance. The circuit court granted Van Linn's motion, suppressing the results of the deputy's warrantless blood draw on the grounds that no exigent circumstances justified the deputy's failure to get a warrant.3

¶7 Three months later, the State asked the circuit court to issue a subpoena to the hospital for Van Linn's medical records, which included the results of the hospital's diagnostic blood test.4 The State submitted an accompanying affidavit asserting there was probable cause for the subpoena because the deputy smelled alcohol on Van Linn at the scene, Van Linn had a reduced BAC restriction, and Van Linn admitted he had been drinking before the accident. The affidavit referenced the deputy's blood draw and noted that testing of the sample showed that Van Linn's BAC was over the legal limit. Van Linn moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that the State's subpoena request violated the circuit court's suppression decision because it sought evidence that was "necessarily related to the previously suppressed blood draw." But the subpoena was issued and executed before the court held a hearing on Van Linn's motion to quash. The hospital turned over Van Linn's treatment records,

971 N.W.2d 482

including the results of the hospital's diagnostic blood test.5

401 Wis.2d 8

¶8 Van Linn then filed a motion to suppress the hospital's blood-test results. He argued that the State was attempting to circumvent the circuit court's prior suppression decision by obtaining the "same information"—his BAC—that it learned from the deputy's unlawful blood draw. Van Linn urged that suppressing the hospital's blood test was necessary to "give[ ] proper purpose and effect" to the court's prior decision. The circuit court denied Van Linn's motion on statutory grounds without addressing whether its prior suppression of the deputy's unlawful blood draw precluded the State from acquiring the results of the hospital's blood test.6

¶9 On appeal, Van Linn argued that the United States Supreme Court's precedents—namely, Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States, 251 U.S. 385, 40 S.Ct. 182, 64 L.Ed. 319 (1920), and Murray v. United States, 487 U.S. 533, 108 S.Ct. 2529, 101 L.Ed.2d 472 (1988) —required the circuit court to suppress the hospital's blood-test results because the State was "prompted" by the suppression of the deputy's unlawful blood draw to subpoena the hospital for his medical records. He further claimed that the State subpoenaed the hospital only because it knew from the deputy's unlawful blood draw that his BAC was over the legal limit. Van Linn explained that Silverthorne Lumber and Murray prevented the State from using that

401 Wis.2d 9

knowledge as the reason for its subsequent subpoena request. The court of appeals rejected those arguments, holding that the independent-source doctrine, as described in Silverthorne Lumber and Murray, applied. State v. Van Linn, No. 2019AP1317-CR, unpublished op., 2020 WL 6733500 (Wis. Ct. App. Nov. 17, 2020). It reasoned that, based on the deputy's investigation at the accident scene, the State had probable cause to believe that Van Linn was operating his car while intoxicated before it had "any inkling of what a blood test would reveal." Id., ¶24. Although the State obtained the hospital's blood-test results only after it knew the results of the deputy's blood test, the hospital's blood test was an independent source of Van Linn's BAC because it was "created completely independently" of the deputy's unlawful blood draw. Id., ¶20. The court of appeals held that "the purpose of the exclusionary rule would not be effectuated" by suppressing the hospital's blood test "merely because it was of the same nature" as the unlawfully obtained evidence, because suppressing it would put the State in a worse position than it was in absent the deputy's unlawful conduct. Id.

II

¶10 Whether the exclusionary rule applies to the hospital's blood test is a question of "constitutional fact," which we review under a mixed standard of review. See State v. Jackson, 2016 WI 56, ¶45, 369 Wis. 2d 673, 882 N.W.2d 422. We accept the circuit court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous.

971 N.W.2d 483

State v. Carroll, 2010 WI 8, ¶17, 322 Wis. 2d 299, 778 N.W.2d...

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1 practice notes
  • State v. X. S. (In re Interest of X. S.), 2021AP419
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 29, 2022
    ...2d 940, 961, 471 N.W.2d 493 (1991). Unless they are clearly in error, we accept the circuit court's findings of fact. State v. Van Linn, 2022 WI 16, ¶10, 401 Wis. 2d 1, 971 N.W.2d 478. And while circuit courts are given the authority to make reasonable decisions based on the facts and law, ......
1 cases
  • State v. X. S. (In re Interest of X. S.), 2021AP419
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 29, 2022
    ...2d 940, 961, 471 N.W.2d 493 (1991). Unless they are clearly in error, we accept the circuit court's findings of fact. State v. Van Linn, 2022 WI 16, ¶10, 401 Wis. 2d 1, 971 N.W.2d 478. And while circuit courts are given the authority to make reasonable decisions based on the facts and law, ......

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