No arrest but blood sample admitted

State of Ohio v. Mattix, 2014-Ohio-5319

On May 26, 2013 around 7:30 p.m., Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Smith was sent to a one-car crash at 1689 Smeltzer Road in Marion, Ohio. Witnesses to the crash told Trooper Smith that they saw a man stumble away and get picked up by another vehicle. The description of the witnesses matched the Defendant and the car picking him up matched that of his wife.

The Defendant was found at Marion General Hospital and they were getting ready to transport him to a hospital in Columbus, Ohio, given the severity of his injuries. Trooper Smith read the Defendant the BMV2255 form in order to prepare for getting a sample of the Defendant’s blood. But Trooper Smith told the Defendant that he was not under arrest. The hospital techs then drew a small amount of blood from the Defendant using a kit provided by the Highway Patrol Trooper. Defendant was then taken from Marion to Columbus.

The results of the test showed that the Defendant’s blood/alcohol level was above .170 (doubling the jail time minimums). But Defendant filed a Motion to Suppress, arguing that the rules for admission of the test results required that the Defendant be under arrest when the sample was taken. Defendant had not been arrested at that time.

This required the prosecutor to find an alternative legal basis for getting the blood test result in (absent the implied consent that all Ohio driver’s give in order to get their licenses to drive).

So the prosecutor argued that even though there was no warrant for the blood test, there were “exigent circumstances” which would lead to the destruction of the evidence had the blood not been taken. The prosecutor reasoned that by the time that the Defendant got to Columbus, Ohio, from Marion Ohio, a 60 minute drive, the three hour window to get the blood test done would have passed. Blood tests that are not taken within three hours of the suspect driving the vehicle are not admissible in Court unless a special expert can come in and testify as to the accuracy of the test results beyond the three hours. The trial court overruled the Defendant’s Motion to Suppress and the Defendant appealed.

Ohio’s Third District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. The court reasoned that there are certain situations that present exigent circumstances that justify a warrantless search and seizure. The Court cited State v. Moore, 90 Ohio St.3d 47 at 52. The court further reasoned that exigencies make the needs of law enforcement so compelling that a warrantless search is objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. State v. Mattix, 2014-Ohio-5319, citing Missouri v. McNeely, __ U.S. __, 133 S.Ct. 1552, 1558 (2013).

So even thought the suspect was not arrested under the implied consent law, the results came in anyway.