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State v. Cates

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

July 17, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
MICAH ALEXANDER CATES

          Remanded on April 26, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Carter County No. 21779 Jon Kerry Blackwood, Judge

         The Tennessee Supreme Court has remanded this case for reconsideration in light of State v. Reynolds, 504 S.W.3d 283 (Tenn. 2016). See State v. Micah Alexander Cates, No. E2014-01322-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 5679825, at *1-6 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 28, 2015), perm. app. granted, case remanded (Tenn. Nov. 16, 2016). Relevant to the current remand, this court concluded in the previous appeal that a new trial was necessary because the warrantless blood draw was not justified by exigent circumstances and that the evidence obtained from the blood draw should have been suppressed. Upon further review, we conclude that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule permitted the admission of the relevant evidence, and we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Steven R. Finney, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Micah Alexander Cates.

          Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Deputy Attorney General; Anthony Clark, District Attorney General; and Janet Hardin and Robin Ray, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE

         This case arises from a single-vehicle crash on August 14, 2012, in which the Defendant was injured and his passenger, Tanner Perkins, was killed. On appeal, this court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

SUPPRESSION HEARING
Captain Greg Workman of the Elizabethton Police Department ("EPD") testified that on August 14, 2012, he received a dispatch at 1:47 a.m. to a single-car accident on Milligan Highway. He arrived at the scene within five minutes of the dispatch and found a white BMW "intertwined with a metal pole in the Milligan Grocery parking lot" and an individual, later determined to be the Defendant, lying outside of the driver's side door. Captain Workman observed another individual in the passenger seat of the car and attempted to make contact with the Defendant to determine the number of occupants in the car and their identities. The Defendant appeared to have an open fracture to his left leg and was "obviously in pain" and "confused." He was unable to recall the number of occupants in the car or the identity of the individual in the passenger seat. While assessing the scene, Captain Workman smelled an "odor of alcohol, but could[ not] determine whether or not it was coming from [the Defendant] or from the vehicle."
Because of his injuries, the Defendant was soon transported by ambulance to the Johnson City Medical Center ("JCMC"). Captain Workman testified that he "knew it was a possibility" that the Defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, and based on the totality of the circumstances, he believed that "exigent circumstances existed and [the police] needed to draw blood as soon as [the Defendant] got to the hospital." He explained, "[There was] a high impact collision to a fixed structure[, ] . . . [and the Defendant] was lying in the roadway with an open fracture to his leg. We [were] concerned not only about the injuries that we observed externally, but [also] the internal injuries that he could have[.]" He directed an officer to follow the ambulance and obtain a blood sample from the Defendant.
On cross-examination, Captain Workman testified that he observed the Defendant for approximately 45 seconds to one minute while on the scene. He also stated that he had investigated three mandatory blood draw cases and had never sought a search warrant to draw the suspect's blood. He agreed, however, that he had drafted approximately 40 search warrants in his career and had taken 20 to 25 search warrants to a nearby judge's house "at all hours of the night." He further agreed that two judges lived within a few miles of the accident scene and were willing to receive officers at any hour of the night to sign search warrants. He acknowledged that the EPD has search warrant templates and that search warrants can be drafted based on knowledge received from other officers. He also acknowledged that the officers on the scene had cell phones and radios but stated that there were no officers on duty at the police station at the time of the accident. He conceded that four of the 11 officers that responded to the scene had experience drafting search warrants.
On redirect examination, Captain Workman testified that to get a search warrant that evening, an officer would have had to return to the police station, draft a search warrant, contact the district attorney to have the warrant reviewed, and then contact a judge to have the warrant signed. He reiterated that "time was [of] the essence on this case" and stated that he needed all of the responding officers on the scene. When asked what exigencies existed in this case, Captain Workman stated,
When I viewed the [Defendant] I viewed the injury to his leg. I knew that he was going to be transported to the hospital hot, which [means] emergency. I knew that he was going to be going into surgery and I didn't want anything else to be put into his system prior to us drawing that blood.
He agreed that he was also concerned about the natural dissipation of alcohol from the Defendant's system and the time it would take to get a search warrant before drawing his blood. He added that "if the accident [were] to happen tonight I would have done nothing different than what I did that particular night . . . [because] I felt exigent circumstances existed[.]"
EPD Officer Ryan Brackett arrived on the scene at approximately 2:50 a.m. where he observed a single-car accident that occurred when the car "failed to negotiate [a] curve and struck a pole" in the parking lot of Milligan Grocery. He described the accident as "horrific" and recalled that the motor was thrown approximately 40 feet from the car and the pole "intru[ded] into the vehicle" on the passenger's side to the rear seat. When Officer Brackett arrived on the scene, which was over an hour after the initial dispatch, the Defendant had already been transported to the hospital and the victim had been extricated from the car. On cross-examination, Officer Brackett testified that he had drafted search warrants in the past but had never drafted a search warrant for a mandatory blood draw. He agreed that the EPD had a "form" or "outline" for search warrants available and that he had a cell phone and radio in his car that evening. He also agreed that 11 officers responded to the scene that evening and that two officers were sent to get blood samples from the Defendant and the victim, leaving nine officers on the scene to investigate.
EPD Officer Matt Sexton, who arrived within 10 minutes of the dispatch, described the scene as "a mess." He explained that there was "a large field of debris" and "parts of the vehicle [that] were thrown quite a distance from the actual crash scene." In addition to the responding police officers, the fire department and emergency medical services were also on the scene. Captain Workman directed Officer Sexton to follow the ambulance transporting the Defendant to the hospital to obtain a blood sample from him. He recalled that the Defendant was transported "hot, " meaning that the ambulance used its emergency lights and audible signals during transport, and agreed that there was a "high sense of emergency and urgency." At the hospital, Officer Sexton directed a nurse to collect a sample of the Defendant's blood. He observed the Defendant lying on a gurney at the hospital but did not make contact with him and could not tell whether the Defendant was conscious or unconscious. Officer Sexton testified that the Defendant's blood was drawn at 2:30 a.m. On cross-examination, Officer Sexton testified that he was at the hospital approximately 20 minutes.
Lindsey Jones, a registered nurse-anesthetist working at JCMC on August 14, 2012, put the Defendant under anesthesia for surgery at approximately 7 a.m. that day. She testified that when she met the Defendant in the surgery holding unit, his chart indicated that he had been administered Versed, a benzodiazepine drug that causes amnesia. His chart also indicated that he was administered Zofran, Dilaudid, Ancef, and Gentamicin intravenously. In order to put the Defendant to sleep, Jones administered Propofol, Lidocaine, Syccinylcholine, Rocuroniun, and Fentanyl. Jones testified that of the drugs administered to the Defendant, Versed, Dilaudid, and Fentanyl would show up on a toxicology screen, but the other drugs would not show up on a screen. On cross-examination, ...

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