July 01, 2013

Juvenile's Consent to Blood Test Was Not Implied by Operating Vehicle

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

State v. Butler, 2013 WL 2353802 (Ariz. 2013).

State statue purporting to provide consent for drug or alcohol tests of anyone who operated a motor vehicle in the state violated youth’s Fourth Amendment rights. Officer told youth he had to submit to a blood test and no facts showed it would have been impractical for the officer to obtain a warrant. 

A 16-year-old youth arrived late to school and a staff member smelled marijuana and observed paraphernalia in his car. A sheriff’s deputy was called and the juvenile was read his Miranda rights. 

The deputy then read an ‘implied consent admonition’ detailing Arizona’s implied consent law. The law concerned blood, breath, or other tests for persons suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). The law provided for suspension of driving privileges for failing tests or for refusal to submit to the tests. The officer concluded saying “You are, therefore, required to submit to the specified tests.”

The youth agreed to submit to the blood test verbally and in writing. The state then charged him with a DUI. At trial he moved to suppress the test results arguing his consent was involuntary. 

The juvenile court granted the motion to suppress, finding the implied consent law violated the Arizona Parents’ Bill of Rights (PBR) and alternatively that his consent was not voluntary under the circumstances under the Fifth Amendment. 

On appeal, the Arizona Court of Appeals found the PBR did not apply because the officer was acting within his official duties. It further found the blood test results were not testimonial evidence, thus the Fifth Amendment did not prohibit introduction. The Court of Appeals also found no unreasonable searches and seizures violation under the Fourth Amendment. Based on this, the Court of Appeals overruled the juvenile court.

The youth appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court. 

The Arizona Supreme Court first analyzed the case under the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. 

The youth contended on appeal that the drug test was a search and required either a warrant or voluntary consent. The state countered that all Arizona drivers impliedly consent to drug tests by operating vehicles as described in the implied consent statute. 

The Arizona Supreme Court noted that the Fourth Amendment mandated officers to obtain a warrant where they could reasonably do so without limiting the effectiveness of the investigation. The Court also found the youth’s consent was not knowingly and intelligently voluntary under the circumstances. He was told by an officer he was required to take the test. He was handcuffed at one point by the deputy and questioned outside his parents’ presence. Taken together, and accounting for his age and maturity, the trial court correctly found it was involuntary. 

The court did not find the PBR applied since it went to the rights of parents, which the youth lacked standing to raise, even assuming the situation violated their rights. 

Based on the above, the Arizona Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings to the trial court.