In a recent Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts written opinion regarding a Massachusetts drunk driving case, the court reversed the decision of the trial court convicting the defendant of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (OUI) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, holding that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress. The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that blood drawn from the defendant at the hospital after a crash that was then obtained by law enforcement by warrant and tested was inadmissible as the defendant did not provide his consent to have his blood tested.
Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the driver of a pickup truck lost control and collided with a tree off the side of the road, suffering extensive front-end damage. No other cars were involved in the collision. When the police arrived, the defendant was seated in the driver’s seat and admitted to being the operator of the vehicle. The officer noticed that the defendant was unsteady on his feet and showed other signs of intoxication, including slurring his speech, glassy eyes, and the strong odor of alcohol emanating from the defendant’s person.
The defendant was transported to a nearby hospital, where the officer gave hospital personnel a “preservation of evidence letter” seeking to preserve any blood drawn during medical treatment. Police then obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s blood. The blood was seized, transported, and tested at a crime lab for blood alcohol content. The defendant was charged with an OUI in violation of §24(1)(a)(1) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle in violation of § 24 (2) (a). The police never attempted or obtained the defendant’s consent to test his blood.