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COA holds blood draw supported by exigency

State v. Christina Marie Wiederin, case activity (including briefs)

Wiederin was a driver in a fatal head-on collision. She was seriously injured in the crash and was trapped inside the car for nearly an hour afterward; she was then taken by ambulance to a hospital in Minnesota, where she would undergo medical imaging followed by surgery. The court of appeals now affirms the trial court’s conclusion that the circumstances of the crash, transportation and treatment presented an exigency such that the sheriff’s sergeant who drew her blood could reasonably conclude seeking a warrant would risk losing evidence, and that the draw was thus valid under Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. 141, 149 (2013).

Wiederin’s chief argument is that given the presence of multiple officers on-scene and the amount of time that passed before the warrantless draw, there was ample opportunity to seek either her consent or a warrant. The court rejects these arguments on the facts here. It says that while Wiederin was still on the “chaotic” accident scene, some of the facts that would have suggested her intoxication were not yet known: an opened bottle of liquor and some marijuana were not located in her car until she was en route to the hospital. (¶21). After Wiederin was extracted from her vehicle, law enforcement officers asked the medical professionals treating her about getting a blood sample, but the latter refused to allow this as it would delay her transport. (¶22). Wiederin contends that other officers on scene could have begun the warrant process after she was in the ambulance, but the circuit court noted that the crash occurred on a busy highway and that officers were directing traffic, searching for evidence, and protecting the scene. (¶23). Finally, Wiederin argues that the sergeant could have applied for a warrant while waiting at the hospital for her to become available. But, the court notes, the sergeant did not know how long the imaging would take, when it would end, or how long he’d have to speak with Wiederin before she went into surgery. Given these circumstances, and the fact that he was in Minnesota–where he was unfamiliar with the warrant procedures and would have to rely on local law enforcement to aid him–the sergeant reasonably concluded seeking a warrant might cause him to miss the chance to obtain any blood. (¶¶26-30).

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