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State v. Ruiz

Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas

September 11, 2019

THE STATE OF TEXAS,
v.
JOSE RUIZ, Appellee

          ON STATE'S PETITION FOR DISCRETIONARY REVIEW FROM THE THIRTEENTH COURT OF APPEALS GONZALES COUNTY

          Keasler, Hervey, Richardson, Newell, and Walker, JJ., joined.

          Yeary, J., did not participate.

          OPINION

          KEEL, J.

         Appellee was charged with felony driving while intoxicated after the State took a blood sample from him without a warrant and while he was unconscious. The trial court granted his motion to suppress his blood test results, and the court of appeals affirmed. The State sought discretionary review to determine whether (1) implied consent to a blood draw from an unconscious driver is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and (2) exigent circumstances justified the warrantless blood draw. We granted review of the first ground, and we hold that implied consent is not a valid basis for a blood draw in the circumstances presented here. We now grant review of the second ground concerning exigent circumstances, vacate the lower court's holding on that issue, and remand the case to the court of appeals for reconsideration of it in light of Mitchell v. Wisconsin, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 4400, 139 S.Ct. 2525 (2019).

         I. Background

         A. Relevant Facts

         Appellee fled the scene of a car wreck under circumstances demonstrating that he had been driving while intoxicated. Officers found him unresponsive in a nearby field and carried him to a patrol car. Emergency medical responders tried to revive him, but he remained unresponsive, and they took him to the hospital. Sergeant Bethany McBride arrested Appellee at the hospital and, although Appellee was unconscious, she read the DWI statutory warnings to him and then ordered a warrantless blood draw pursuant to Texas Transportation Code Sections 724.011 and 724.014.[1]

         B. Issue Granted

         We granted review to decide whether implied consent under Section 724.014 is equivalent to voluntary consent as a recognized exception to the warrant requirement. Is it unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment for an officer to rely on an unconscious driver's implied consent for a blood draw when the unconsciousness prevents the officer from seeking actual consent? We hold that irrevocable implied consent is not free and voluntary and does not satisfy the consent exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Consequently, we affirm the judgment of the court of appeals on this point.

         C. Standard of Review

         We review a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress under a bifurcated standard of review; fact findings are reviewed for an abuse of discretion, and applications of law are reviewed de novo. Turrubiate v. State, 399 S.W.3d 147, 150 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). We will sustain the trial court's application of the law if it is correct on any applicable theory of law, and the record reasonably supports the ruling. Valtierra v. State, 310 S.W.3d 442, 447-48 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010). The trial court's findings in this case are undisputed, and we are presented only with a legal issue.

         II. Discussion

         A. ...


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