Nebraska Court Determines Good Faith Exception Applies In Warrantless Blood Draw Case

Posted by Richard Lawson | Oct 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

When a case reaches an unfavorable outcome, a defendant may choose to appeal. While the appeal is pending, the issues that are being decided in that case may be relevant to other cases that are moving through the court system. Because of this, when a ruling is handed down, a question may arise as to which, if any, of the pending cases the new ruling can be applied to. That is the question that the Nebraska Supreme Court recently dealt with in the case of State v. Hoerle.

In June 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Birchfield v. North Dakota. In this case, the court determined that a warrant was generally needed in order to obtain a blood sample from a suspected DUI driver. The court also looked at “whether a blood test is permissible based on a driver's statutory implied consent and stated that ‘motorists cannot be deemed to have consented to submit to a blood test on pain of committing a criminal offense.'”

One day prior to the court handing down its decision, defendant Jared Hoerle was convicted in Nebraska of DUI after having submitted to a warrantless blood test. He moved for a new trial, arguing “in light of the new rule of constitutional law announced in Birchfield, the introduction of evidence regarding his blood alcohol constituted an error of law and the guilty verdict was not sustained by sufficient admissible evidence. The district court held a hearing on the motion." He stated “that the officer (1) acquired his blood sample without a warrant, (2) [told him he] was required to submit to a chemical blood test, and (3) told [him] refusal to submit to such test was a separate crime for which [he] may be charged.” The district court denied this motion and Hoerle appealed.

The Nebraska Supreme Court analyzed Birchfield and determined that while "Birchfield called into question the voluntariness of a motorist's consent to a blood test when the motorist is advised that refusal will result in a criminal charge . . . it is unclear whether Birchfield created a categorical rule that consent given after threat of criminal prosecution is per se involuntary.” The Birchfield case was actually a consolidation of three cases and one of the defendant's, in that case, had also submitted to a blood test after being told of the consequences for not doing so, like Hoerle. The court had not made a specific ruling in this case but rather remanded the case back to the lower court to take another look at whether the defendant's consent was voluntary.

The Nebraska Supreme court reason that “Birchfield does not make categorically invalid a warrantless blood draw based on actual consent when a driver is incorrectly advised that the driver is required to submit to such a test or will face criminal penalties for a refusal.” The court stated,”[r]ather, a court must consider the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a driver's consent to a blood test was freely and voluntarily given.”

Because Birchfield was handed down after Hoerle's case had gone to trial, the court next considered whether the good faith exception applied. This exception does not require evidence to be excluded “when evidence is obtained pursuant to an officer's objective and reasonable reliance on a law that is not clearly unconstitutional at the time.” The Supreme Court had previously held that “the exclusionary rule did not apply to evidence obtained by police who acted in objectively reasonable reliance on a statute authorizing warrantless administrative searches, but which was subsequently found to violate the Fourth Amendment.”

Nebraska's highest court then determined that the officer who advised Hoerle that refusing to submit to a chemical test could open him up to further criminal charges was acting in good faith as “the statute was not clearly unconstitutional at the time of Hoerle's arrest in April 2015.” The court stated that “[b]ecause the officer here acted in objectively reasonable reliance on a statute that had not been found unconstitutional at the time, excluding the results of Hoerle's blood test would not serve the purpose of the exclusionary rule.” The court concluded, “that the good faith exception applied to warrantless pre-Birchfield blood draws.”

However, despite this ruling, the case may not be over yet. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, the attorney for Hoerle stated that he intends to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and “hopes the court sees it as an opportunity to settle uncertainty and confusion among the states that followed Birchfield.”

If you have been charged with a DUI, contact Georgia DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today to discuss your case. ​We never assume a person is guilty just because they have been charged. We are available 24/7. 

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