v., Supreme Court Case No. 15SA291

CourtSupreme Court of Colorado
Citation2017 CO 24
Docket NumberSupreme Court Case No. 15SA291
PartiesPlaintiff-Appellant: The People of the State of Colorado, v. Defendant-Appellee: Oliver Benton Hyde.
Decision Date17 April 2017

Opinions of the Colorado Supreme Court are available to the public and can be accessed through the Judicial Branch's homepage at http://www.courts.state.co.us. Opinions are also posted on the Colorado Bar Association's homepage at http://www.cobar.org.

ADVANCE SHEET HEADNOTE

Searches and SeizuresWarrantless Blood DrawConsent to Search.

In this interlocutory appeal, the supreme court considers whether a warrantless blood draw conducted on an unconscious driver pursuant to Colorado's Expressed Consent Statute ("the Statute"), section 42-4-1301.1, C.R.S. (2016), violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches. The supreme court explains that by driving in Colorado, the driver consented to the terms of the Statute, including its requirement that "[a]ny person who is dead or unconscious shall be tested to determine the alcohol or drug content of the person's blood." § 42-4-1301.1(8). The supreme court concludes that the driver's prior statutory consent satisfied the consent exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment; therefore, the blood draw conducted in this case was constitutional. Consequently, the supreme court reverses the trial court's order suppressing the blood-draw evidence.

Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court

Arapahoe County District Court Case No. 15CR1230

Honorable Frederick T. Martinez, Judge

Order Reversed

en banc

Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant:

George H. Brauchler, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District

Jennifer Gilbert, Deputy District Attorney

Centennial, Colorado

Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee:

Graf & Associates, P.C.

Gregory C. Graf

Greenwood Village, Colorado

JUSTICE HOOD delivered the Opinion of the Court.

JUSTICE EID concurs in the judgment, and CHIEF JUSTICE RICE and JUSTICE COATS join in the concurrence in the judgment.

¶1 The defendant, Oliver Hyde, was involved in a single-vehicle accident that left him unconscious. The police suspected that he might have been driving under the influence of alcohol. Hyde was transported to the hospital, and, in accordance with Colorado law, a sample of his blood was taken to establish his blood-alcohol concentration ("BAC").

¶2 Hyde was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol ("DUI"). He sought to have the result of the blood test suppressed as evidence obtained through an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The trial court granted his motion to suppress, and the People filed this interlocutory appeal.

¶3 In this opinion, we consider whether this warrantless blood draw violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches. By driving in Colorado, Hyde consented to the terms of the Expressed Consent Statute, including its requirement that he submit to blood-alcohol testing under the circumstances present here. Hyde's statutory consent satisfied the consent exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. We therefore conclude that in the circumstances presented here, the blood draw was constitutional. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's suppression order.

I. Facts and Procedural History

¶4 On February 10, 2015, just after midnight, Aurora Police Department ("APD") officers responded to an accident at Iliff Avenue and I-225, where the defendant had driven his pickup truck into a light pole, despite seemingly safe driving conditions.

One of the first officers to arrive on the scene found Hyde unconscious, pinned in the driver's seat, with blood gurgling from his mouth. She got within a few inches of Hyde to determine whether he was breathing and smelled alcohol. Passengers in the truck explained that they had attended a basketball game earlier that evening; one passenger stated that Hyde had consumed three beers. After fire personnel extracted Hyde from the truck, an ambulance crew took him to a nearby hospital. En route, Hyde regained consciousness and became combative. Therefore, the ambulance crew sedated him.

¶5 APD requested that hospital staff perform a blood draw, which revealed that slightly less than two hours after the accident, Hyde's BAC was 0.06. That BAC level permits an inference that Hyde drove while impaired by the consumption of alcohol. See § 42-4-1301(6)(a)(II), C.R.S. (2016). Because Hyde was unconscious, APD did not ask for his consent before ordering the blood draw. APD also did not seek a search warrant.

¶6 The People charged Hyde with DUI. Hyde sought to suppress the blood-draw evidence, arguing that the police lacked probable cause to request a blood-alcohol test and that, by conducting a warrantless draw without his contemporaneous consent, the police violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches.

¶7 The trial court found there was probable cause to believe Hyde was driving under the influence, but it agreed with Hyde that the warrantless blood draw, administered while he was unconscious and had no opportunity to refuse, violated the Fourth Amendment. Relying primarily on Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013), and the plurality opinion in People v. Schaufele, 2014 CO 43, 325 P.3d 1060, the trialcourt reasoned that while Colorado's Expressed Consent Statute, section 42-4-1301.1, C.R.S. (2016), deems drivers to have consented to a blood or breath test, this statutory consent did not satisfy the consent exception to the warrant requirement because it did not afford the unconscious driver the chance to return to consciousness and revoke his consent. The trial court therefore granted Hyde's motion to suppress the blood-draw result.

¶8 The People filed this interlocutory appeal under section 16-12-102(2), C.R.S. (2016), and C.A.R. 4.1. They ask this court to determine whether the trial court erred in concluding that the warrantless blood draw violated the Fourth Amendment.

II. Standard of Review

¶9 Review of a trial court's suppression order presents a mixed question of fact and law. People v. Munoz-Gutierrez, 2015 CO 9, ¶ 14, 342 P.3d 439, 443. We defer to the trial court's findings of fact that are supported by the record, but we assess the legal effect of those facts de novo. Id.; see also People v. Chavez-Barragan, 2016 CO 66, ¶¶ 33-35, 379 P.3d 330, 338 (examining the standards of review this court has historically applied to questions of voluntariness); People v. Matheny, 46 P.3d 453, 459 (Colo. 2002) ("[W]hen a constitutional right is implicated . . . appellate courts should not defer to a lower court's judgment when applying legal standards to the facts found by the trial court.").

III. Analysis

¶10 We begin with an overview of the relevant provisions of Colorado's Expressed Consent Statute and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We thenconsider whether the blood draw conducted in this case was permissible under the Fourth Amendment. By driving in Colorado, Hyde consented to the terms of the Expressed Consent Statute, including its requirement that he submit to blood-alcohol testing under the circumstances present here. Hyde's statutory consent satisfied the consent exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. We therefore conclude that in the circumstances presented here, the blood draw was constitutional. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's suppression order.

A. The Legal Backdrop

¶11 With the rise of motor vehicle usage in the twentieth century, states found themselves confronting a grave problem: the devastating consequences of drunk drivers on the nation's roadways. Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160, 2167 (2016). In response, states enacted laws making it illegal to drive while intoxicated. Id. But a prohibition on drunk driving was not enough to conquer the problem. In order to obtain evidence necessary for securing convictions under the new laws, states began to enact implied consent laws designed to encourage drivers to submit to blood-alcohol tests. See Comment, The Theory and Practice of Implied Consent in Colorado, 47 U. Colo. L. Rev. 723, 724 (1976); Colo. Legis. Council, Research Pub. No. 123, Highway Safety in Colorado 43 (1966) ("Advocates of implied consent argue that a much greater conviction rate could be obtained against persons charged with driving while under the influence than at present through adoption of implied consent legislation."). These laws "require motorists, as a condition of operating a motor vehicle within the State, to consent to BAC testing if they are arrested or otherwisedetained on suspicion of a drunk-driving offense." McNeely, 133 S. Ct. at 1566 (plurality opinion).

¶12 Colorado first enacted an implied consent statute in 1967. Ch. 356, sec. 2, § 13-5-30(3), 1967 Colo. Sess. Laws 753, 753-55. The current version of the law is the Expressed Consent Statute ("the Statute"),1 codified at section 42-4-1301.1. The Statute provides that any person who drives in the state is required to submit to a test to determine the alcoholic content of the person's blood or breath when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe the person was driving under the influence of alcohol. § 42-4-1301.1(2)(a)(I). The Statute also states that "[a]ny person who drives any motor vehicle . . . throughout [the] state shall be deemed to have expressed such person's consent to the provisions of this section." § 42-4-1301.1(1).

¶13 A conscious driver who refuses to submit to a test is subject to certain administrative and evidentiary consequences spelled out in the statutory scheme. See § 42-2-126(3)(c)(I), C.R.S. (2016) (refusal leads to revocation of driver's license); § 42-4-1301(6)(d), C.R.S. (2016) (refusal admissible at trial to prove guilt of DUI).

¶14 An unconscious driver, on the other hand, "shall be tested to determine the alcohol or drug content of the person's blood." §...

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    ...warranty of suitability. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals’ judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings. 2017 CO 24. No. 15SA291. People v. Hyde. Searches and Seizures—Warrantless Blood Draw—Consent to Search. In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court consi......

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