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Case Alert: Warrantless use of hospital blood draw suppressed

Posted Aug 01, 2018

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Oswaldo Diaz was the sole occupant of a truck that crashed into a business’s entry gate.  Fire department personnel found Diaz slumped over the steering wheel, extracted him, and transported him to the hospital, where a nurse noticed the odor of alcohol on Diaz’s breath and person.  After the police were advised of these facts, and that medical personnel had drawn Diaz’s blood for medical purposes, a police officer took custody of the blood without a warrant.  The state tested the blood’s alcohol content and Diaz was charged with aggravated DUI.  The superior court denied Diaz’s motion to suppress the blood evidence and the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, accepted special-action jurisdiction.

In Diaz v. Hon. Van Wie/State , the Court of Appeals analyzed Arizona’s “medical-draw exception,” which authorizes the warrantless seizure of certain blood samples drawn by private actors, A.R.S. 28-1388(E).  Noting that the statute does not trump the Fourth Amendment, and citing Arizona Supreme Court precedent in State v. Cocio, 147 Ariz. 277, 286 (1985), and State v. Nissley, 241 Ariz. 327, 331 (2017), the Court held that the medical-draw exception for seizure of blood samples requires a showing of exigent circumstances.  Exigent circumstances do not include the natural evanescence of alcohol in the bloodstream, particularly where, as here, the blood sample has already been preserved by hospital personnel.  The Court held that, absent exigent circumstances, Diaz’s blood sample must be suppressed.