Judging Traffic (July 2018):


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State v. Lyanne Lemeunier-Fitzgerald

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court rendered a verdict in State v. Lyanne Lemeunier-Fitzgerald on July 3, 2018. An officer observed the defendant in a grocery store parking lot operating a motor vehicle and she appeared to be impaired. When he approached the defendant, she took a whole pill bottle of pills. She was arrested and transported to a hospital. While at the hospital, the officer read a standard implied consent form to the defendant. It informed her that failure to consent to a blood draw would result in the following:

A. Result in suspension of that person’s driver’s license for a period up to 6 years;

B. Be admissible in evidence at a trial for operating under the influence of intoxicants; and

C. Be considered an aggravating factor at sentencing if the person is convicted of operating under the influence of intoxicants that, in addition to other penalties, will subject the person to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration.

Following the reading of the implied consent warnings, the defendant agreed to submit to a blood test. In the trial court, she moved to suppress the results of the blood test arguing that her consent was involuntary and the implied consent warnings are unreasonably coercive. The trial court judge disagreed and declined to suppress the evidence. The defendant then entered a conditional guilty plea which by its terms allowed her to appeal the denial of her motion to suppress.

The issue before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court was whether the consent exception to the warrant requirement applies to a defendant who gave her consent upon receiving the specific statutory warnings at issue here. The appeals court determined that the implied consent warnings are not unconstitutionally coercive consequences for refusing to submit to testing and therefore, the warnings of those consequences did not undermine the voluntariness of her consent. In reaching this conclusion, the appeals court distinguished Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 195 L.Ed. 2d 560 (2016).

Traffic Safety Trends

The National Conference of State Legislators just released a report titled Traffic Safety Trends: State Legislative Action 2017. This is an extremely well-done report that looks at every major traffic issue that has an impact on public safety on roadways. It includes a number of tables with state by state comparative information and some include year over year data. This is a great source to get factual information about traffic safety issues and the current state legislative responses.

The Sixth of Six Videos on Impaired Driving Issues for Judges

The final video produced by the National Center for State Courts and ABA Judicial Outreach Liaisons, supported by NHTSA, about issues in traffic adjudication has been released. In this video, judges discuss the latest developments in DWI offender monitoring technology, such as ignition interlocks and transdermal alcohol monitoring systems. The video is located here and all of the videos in this series can be viewed here.

A Warrantless Blood Draw on an Unconscious Defendant

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin rendered an opinion in State v. Gerald Mitchell on July 3, 2018.  The police received a call that Mr. Mitchell was drinking and driving.  When he was located, he was extremely intoxicated and although he was not in the car, he admitted to drinking and driving.  While in route to the police station for secondary chemical testing, the defendant became “lethargic” so the officer transported him to the hospital.  At the hospital, the defendant became totally unconscious.  The police officer requested hospital staff draw blood as evidence which they did.  The blood draw was done without a warrant.  Prior to the trial, the defendant moved to suppress the blood evidence as an unlawful warrantless search pursuant to the Fourth Amendment and appropriate state constitutional provisions.  The motion was denied.  The defendant was convicted following a jury trial. 

The issue on appeal was whether a warrantless blood draw from an unconscious person and pursuant to relevant statutory authority violates the Fourth Amendment.  The Supreme Court of Wisconsin held that the warrantless blood draw was not an unreasonable search, that there was therefore no Fourth Amendment violation and they affirmed the conviction.  They stated: 

We conclude that Mitchell voluntarily consented to a blood draw by his conduct of driving on Wisconsin's roads and drinking to a point evidencing probable cause of intoxication.  Further, through drinking to the point of unconsciousness, Mitchell forfeited all opportunity, including the statutory opportunity under Wis. Stat. § 343.305(4), to withdraw his consent previously given; and therefore, § 343.305(3)(b) applied, which under the totality of circumstances reasonably permitted drawing Mitchell's blood.

Arizona Electronic Search Warrant Program

The Arizona Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts issued the following press release on June 13, 2018:

Electronic Search Warrant Program Goes Statewide

PHOENIX – The Arizona Supreme Court authorized the expansion of the electronic search warrant program statewide for certain vehicular offenses. This expansion will greatly enhance efficiency for law enforcement agencies across Arizona while still providing appropriate judicial review of requests for warrants.
Effective August 1, the Superior Court in Maricopa County will assist law enforcement statewide by authorizing, when appropriate, electronic search warrant requests for blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substances for the following vehicular offenses:

• Driving under the influence;
• Vehicle-related homicide;
• Vehicle-related aggravated assault;
• Vehicle-related endangerment, or
• Other vehicle-related offenses.

The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety collaborated with Maricopa County Superior Court and 24 Valley police departments on funding to develop an online electronic warrant project for blood draws on individuals suspected of driving under the influence. The early success of the 2012 pilot program led to another round of grant funding to allow Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) to expand the program to its officers across the state. The new Arizona Supreme Court’s Administrative Order expands the program to all law enforcement agencies.

Search warrants and affidavits are exchanged electronically and securely between the law enforcement agencies and the Superior Court in Maricopa County. Previously, access to a fax machine was necessary to submit information for judicial review. Judicial officers review the affidavit and, if appropriate, return a search warrant through the county’s 24/7 Initial Appearance Court.

“We commend Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales, Superior Court Presiding Judge Janet Barton and the former Presiding Judge Norm Davis for working on this process,” Alberto Gutier, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said. “Being able to submit warrants for judicial review 24 hours a day and getting a timely response can mean the difference between safety and tragedy on our roadways.”

Transporting drivers suspected of impaired driving to a location that has a fax machine is hampered by the state’s geography and many remote, rural areas. By reducing the amount of time it takes for law enforcement to obtain a warrant, public safety will be enhanced with faster, more accurate test results – and violators can be held accountable with biological evidence. For more information about Arizona’s judicial branch, visit www.azcourts.gov, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

CDL Compliance Article

The Indiana Times publish an article in their June 21, 2018 edition titled Together, Let’s Stay CDL Compliant. The article addresses the federal regulatory requirements that must be followed by courts once a CDL license holder has been convicted of a qualifying offense. It is a short, well written article that clearly explains this important topic.

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