Earlier this month, the Kansas Court of Appeals set an important precedent related to the state's implied consent law. The law says that any person who operates a vehicle in Kansas has been deemed to have given consent to a chemical test of breath, blood, or urine. This law had generally been construed pretty broadly, but the recent case of State v. Declerck has drawn a critical line in the sand.
On November 5, 2011, Aryanna Philatina Declerck was involved in a one vehicle accident that ended in the death of Shaylee Oxy, a passenger in the vehicle. Oxy was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. Declerck, who was driving at the time of the crash, was charged with involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
At the subsequent hearing, officers testified to the events that occurred after the crash. Once medical personnel had responded to the accident, Declerck was transported to a local hospital because of injuries she had sustained during the crash. At that time, Trooper Marcus Seirer told another officer to obtain a blood draw from Declerck in order to determine her BAC. Declerck refused to submit to the test, but the officer proceeded with a custodial blood draw. Her blood tested positive for marijuana use.
After a preliminary hearing on the matter, Declerck filed two motions to suppress evidence. She claimed that the officers had no probable cause to believe that Declerck was under the influence of drugs and that officers failed to obtain a search warrant before drawing her blood. The officers actually conceded that they did not notice any signs of impairment from Declerck at the time at issue!
After a lower court granted Declerck's motions and held that her Fourth Amendment rights had been violated by the blood draw, the prosecution filed an appeal challenging the suppression of the blood test. On appeal, the main issue was whether the lower court was correct in granting Declerck's motion to suppress evidence of the blood test.
The Court first asked the question of whether probable cause existed to justify the blood draw. In this matter, the State admits that there was no probable cause to draw Declerck's blood, but, they argued that the state's implied consent statute was in fact, enough, to justify taking the sample. The State contends that because there was an injury associated with the accident, this makes the blood draw lawful. However, in its discussion, the Court noted a long list of other states that have considered that argument - all failed.
In fact, the State was unable to present the Court with any relevant case law that says “consent is valid for Fourth Amendment purposes based on the implied consent statute alone.” Therefore, the Court held that the state's implied consent law “is unconstitutional to the extent it requires a search and seizure absent probable cause the person was operating or attempting to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
This means that the Court affirmed the lower court's ruling that the motion to suppress evidence must be granted. This news is quite encouraging. It's nice to know that the courts in this state still value the Fourth Amendment and that officers will not be able to get away with violating our Constitutional rights.