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Delaware Superior Court upholds admissibility of blood alcohol testing obtained by consensual blood draw conducted in a police station in felony DUI and Vehicular Assault case. Distinguishes State v. Crespo

On December 3, 2008, The Honorable Joseph E. Slights, of the Superior Court of the State of Delaware, denied Defendant’s Motion to Suppress blood test evidence obtained in the Wilmington Police Station in State v. Cardona, a Vehicular Assault and felony DUI case.

Defendant contended that, “a blood draw conducted at a police station rather than at a medical facility constituted an “unreasonable” search and seizure as proscribed by the United States and Delaware constitutions and Delaware statutory law.”

Defendant was stopped and arrested one block from a “hit and run” accident. After being taken into custody the Wilmington Police Officer took Defendant to the Wilmington Police Station where Omega Medical Services (“OMS”) was called to the Wilmington Police Station to draw a sample of Defendant’s blood, pursuant to a contract between the City of Wilmington and Omega Medical Services.

The Court observed, “The Fourth Amendment and its State constitutional counterpart protect ‘personal privacy and dignity against unwarranted intrusion by the state.’ In the context of bodily intrusions, such as certain surgical and medical procedures, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that such intrusions involve a defendant’s “most personal and deep-rooted expectations of privacy” and, therefore, implicate “a discerning inquiry into the facts and circumstances to determine whether the intrusion was justifiable….Courts conducting a ‘discerning inquiry’ into the withdrawal of blood from DUI suspects for the purpose of chemical testing have found that such a minimal bodily intrusion is usually justified, even in instances where no specific consent has been given and even w here blood is forcibly withdrawn against a suspect’s w ill. The constitutional analysis in blood extraction cases hinges on three prongs: (1) probable cause to believe a suspect is driving under the influence; (2) a search warrant or a recognized exception under the Fourth Amendment, and lastly; (3) reasonableness….A determination of reasonableness involves a balancing of the ‘extent of the intrusion upon the individual’s interests in personal privacy and bodily integrity’ against the ‘community’s interest in fairly and accurately determining guilt or innocence.'”

The Superior Court citing Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 767 (1966), held; “[B]ased on now well-settled precedent, the Court is satisfied that police officers may require DUI suspects to submit to chemical testing of their blood, even without consent, as long as ‘the means and procedures employed…respect[] relevant Fourth Amendment standards of reasonableness.’ [Schmerber, 384 U.S. at 768.] In certain instances, the officers may use force to obtain the blood sample.” [State v. McCann, 588 A. 2D 1100 (Del. 1991).]

The Court than went on to distinguish the case of State v. Crespo from this case based upon the facts of Crespo, in which a tiny woman was forcibly held down against her will in a police station by two Delaware State Troopers while blood was taken from her arm without her consent for a first offense DUI. The Court noted that in the case sub judice the Defendant was charged with felony DUI and Vehicular Assault and he consented to the withdrawal of blood in the police station.

The Court also noted that the legality of blood draws within police stations, jails and other correctional facilities has been upheld by courts in the States of California, South Dakota, Arizona, Colorado and Wisconsin.

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