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State v. Carter

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

April 5, 2017


          Session December 1, 2015

          Remanded by the Supreme Court, March 8, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2013-C-2372 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge

         Helkie Nathan Carter ("the Defendant") was indicted for the following counts: (1) driving under the influence ("DUI")-third offense; (2) driving with a blood alcohol concentration ("BAC") of .08 or more ("DUI per se")-third offense; (3) violation of the habitual motor vehicle offender statute; and (4) driving on a revoked license. The Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained during a mandatory blood draw was granted by the trial court. The State sought and was granted permission to appeal, arguing that the Defendant gave both actual and implied consent to the blood draw and that, if the good-faith exception is adopted in Tennessee, it should apply to this case. Upon review, we concluded that the Defendant's actual consent was not freely and voluntarily given; that Tennessee's implied consent law did not, by itself, operate as an exception to the warrant requirement; and that the Tennessee Supreme Court had yet to recognize a good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule and it was not the role of this court to do so. State v. Helkie Nathan Carter, No. M2015-00280-CCA-R9-CD, 2016 WL 3044216, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 20, 2016). Accordingly, we affirmed the trial court's granting of the Defendant's motion to suppress. Id. On March 8, 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted the State's application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration in light of the supreme court's recent opinion in State v. Reynolds, 504 S.W.3d 283 (Tenn. 2016). Upon reconsideration in light of Reynolds, we conclude that the good-faith exception to exclusionary rule applies in this case and that suppression of evidence derived from the testing of the Defendant's blood was not required. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court suppressing the results of the warrantless blood draw is reversed, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 9 Interlocutory Appeal; Judgment of the Criminal Court Reversed and Remanded

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; Glenn Funk, District Attorney General; and Matthew Gilbert, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          Dawn Deaner, District Public Defender; Jeffrey A. DeVasher, Assistant District Public Defender (on appeal); Jared Mollenkof, Assistant District Public Defender (at hearing), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Helkie Nathan Carter.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On February 1, 2013, the Defendant was arrested for DUI, and his blood was drawn for analysis. The Defendant filed a "Motion and Memorandum of Law to Suppress the Test Results Gained from the Illegal Blood Draw Performed on Helkie Carter" ("the Motion to Suppress"), claiming that his consent was not voluntarily given and the blood draw violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The State filed several responses to the Motion to Suppress arguing that the Defendant had given actual and implied consent to the blood draw and that, even if consent were not given, the good-faith exception would apply to this case.

         At the hearing on the Motion to Suppress, Officer Jonathan Jones testified that he observed a driver, later identified as the Defendant, make a "rolling stop" at a stop sign around 10:00 p.m. on the date of the offense. Officer Jones activated his blue lights and pursued the vehicle. Because the Defendant did not appear to have noticed the patrol car's blue lights, Officer Jones activated his siren in order to get the Defendant's attention, but the Defendant did not immediately pull over. Two other patrol cars joined in the pursuit before the Defendant stopped his vehicle. In total, Officer Jones pursued the Defendant's vehicle for ten to twelve blocks, or about a quarter of a mile, and the pursuit lasted approximately one minute. Officer Jones thought that the Defendant may not have pulled over immediately either because he was intoxicated or because he was trying to hide a weapon in his vehicle. Officer Jones believed that all three patrol cars were positioned behind the Defendant's when he stopped.

         Officer Jones and the two other officers at the scene initiated a "high-risk takedown" by exiting their patrol cars with their guns drawn and ordering the Defendant to exit his vehicle. Officer Jones observed the Defendant rapidly "sling" his car door and then "kind of use the car door to climb out of the vehicle." Officer Jones then handcuffed the Defendant while the other two officers "held cover." Officer Jones stated that the Defendant smelled of alcohol, his eyes were "red, watery, bloodshot, " his speech was "slightly slurred, " and he was unsteady on his feet. Also, Officer Jones thought the Defendant had been at a party or a club because his clothes were in disarray and he was wearing a necklace which displayed a picture of the Defendant wearing the same clothes he had on during the traffic stop. Officer Jones administered a horizontal gaze nystagmus test and, based on the Defendant's performance, determined that a DUI officer should be called to the scene. At some point during this interaction, the handcuffs were removed. Officer Jones also searched the Defendant's driving record and found that he was a habitual motor vehicle offender. Officer Jones also noted that the Defendant ultimately stopped his car in front of his own house.

         Officer Jonathan Frost testified that he assisted Officer Jones in the Defendant's DUI stop. Officer Frost noted that, once the Defendant stopped, all three officers on the scene had their guns aimed at the Defendant. The Defendant crawled out of the car, using the door to support himself, and the officers saw that the Defendant did not have anything in his hands. Officer Frost did not interact directly with the Defendant, but he recalled that the Defendant's speech was slurred and that the Defendant said he had just come from a club. Officer Frost stated that the Defendant seemed confused.

         Sergeant Justin Pachciarz testified that he was the DUI officer called to the scene. Sergeant Pachciarz detected the odor from an alcoholic beverage on the Defendant's breath. When asked if he had been drinking, the Defendant responded that he either had two Bud Light beers or two sips of beer; Sergeant Pachciarz could not recall the exact amount without looking at his report. Sergeant Pachciarz administered the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the nine-step walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand tests. The Defendant exhibited six out of eight indicators of intoxication during the field sobriety test, and Sergeant Pachciarz had to stop the one-leg stand half-way through the test because the Defendant could not finish the task. Based on the totality of the circumstances, Sergeant Pachciarz placed the Defendant under arrest for driving under the influence. Once the Defendant was inside Sergeant Pachciarz's patrol car, the sergeant recited the Miranda warnings and read the implied consent form to the Defendant. Sergeant Pachciarz also informed the Defendant that, because he had a prior DUI conviction, the blood draw was mandatory. Sergeant Pachciarz also admitted that he told the Defendant that, if he refused to give a blood sample, officers would have to hold him down in order to complete the blood draw. The Defendant consented to the blood draw at 10:39 p.m., and he signed the implied consent form once he had been transported to the hospital. The Defendant's blood was drawn at 11:11 p.m., and results from the test revealed that the Defendant's blood alcohol content ("BAC") was .24. Sergeant Pachciarz recalled that the Defendant was cooperative the entire time.

         Sergeant Pachciarz stated that he did not try to obtain a search warrant because he did not believe he needed one because the Defendant had a prior DUI. In the following exchange, he also explained that he did not believe he could obtain a search warrant because the Defendant was arrested prior to the release of Missouri v. McNeely, U.S., 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013):

Q: Were you aware that [obtaining a warrant] was something you could do at the time?
A: No.
Q: And had you received any sort of training through the police department or any notification that you could now go to night commissioners rather than ...

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