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People v. Palmer





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. Duane G. Walter, Judge, presiding.


Defendant, Christina Palmer, was found guilty after a jury trial of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-501(a)), improper overtaking on the left (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-703(a)), and driving too fast for conditions (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-601(a)). Defendant appeals only her conviction for the first of the above offenses, asserting that the circuit court of Du Page County improperly admitted evidence concerning the results of the chemical analysis performed on a sample of her blood.

At approximately 4 p.m. on March 11, 1980, defendant was driving northbound on Route 83 in Elmhurst. She lost control of her car as she attempted to pass another vehicle and swerved across the median, where she collided with a southbound vehicle driven by another. Defendant was injured in the accident; the other driver suffered injuries from which he eventually died.

Shortly after the accident, an ambulance removed defendant to Memorial Hospital in Elmhurst, where she received treatment in the emergency room. Betty Theroux, a clerk assigned to the emergency room, testified she prepared the paperwork relating to defendant's treatment there. Theroux testified she used a form, admitted into evidence over objection both as People's exhibit 1 and 12, to record certain information obtained from defendant. At the bottom of the form was a section headed, "Authorization for Medical and or Surgical Treatment and Assignment of Insurance Benefits." There followed a statement authorizing emergency-room personnel "to administer such emergency medical and/or surgical treatment as he deems advisable, including blood transfusions, anesthesia, and x-rays." The blank for the patient's signature below this section had been filled in by Theroux with the notation, "Pts Verbal Permission." She testified that the patient normally is asked to sign, "[a]nd if they can't sign it, then we ask for their verbal permission." Theroux recalled asking defendant to sign, but was unable to recall defendant's response.

At various points during the hearing on the motion to suppress, the court noted that no testimony had been introduced concerning a blood test or defendant's withholding of consent for a test. Counsel responded by referring the court to defendant's unverified motion to suppress, which stated that defendant's verbal permission for treatment had been given while she was in semi-shock and not totally cognizant of her surroundings. The motion's averments continued that laboratory reports of urinalysis and hematology, which were administered within 2 1/2 hours of the accident, failed to bear defendant's written or verbal consent to such tests. At the conclusion of the hearing, defendant's motion to suppress was denied.

Defendant subsequently made a motion in limine to exclude this evidence on essentially the same grounds, which motion also was denied.

Trial proceeded, and one of the officers who had investigated the accident testified that he did not arrest defendant when he saw her in the hospital. Theroux was recalled to testify, out of the hearing of the jury, and in essence repeated the testimony she had given at the prior hearing. On the basis of her testimony, the trial court found defendant had given verbal permission for treatment which was sufficient to permit the admission into evidence of the blood test.

The jury was recalled, and Bonnie Evans testified that she was employed as a phlebotomist at Memorial Hospital. She had received on-the-job training and had been so employed for 2 1/2 years. Evans had drawn a sample of blood from defendant in the emergency room. She identified a requisition slip showing that the sample was desired to test for defendant's alcohol level and testified the blood sample was given to a technician for analysis. Lynn Ellen Werner identified herself as the medical technologist who tested the sample of defendant's blood. She had done a 12-month's internship, was registered with the American Society for Clinical Pathologists and had been employed as a medical technologist for 3 1/2 years. Her test disclosed the alcohol content of defendant's blood was 230 milligrams.

Lorraine Arne testified she was the afternoon supervisor of the laboratory for Memorial Hospital and had worked as a medical technologist for 18 years, including eight years as a laboratory supervisor at the hospital. She had been Evans' and Werner's supervisor on March 11. She was neither a pathologist nor a toxicologist and did not specialize in analytical chemistry. When asked if any of her personnel concerned with the case were licensed by the "State Department of Health," she responded, "No, sir. We just have a registry."

Considering the above evidence, the court found that since the laboratory personnel were not certified by the Department of Public Health, People's exhibit 14, the requisition for blood-alcohol level bearing the results of the test, did not qualify for admission into evidence. Defendant's objection to this exhibit was therefore sustained. The court denied ensuing motions by the State for a mistrial and by defendant for a directed verdict. It also denied defendant's motion to strike the testimony of Evans, Werner, and Arne. The court further ruled that since no objection was made to Werner's oral testimony concerning the results of the blood test, that evidence would stand.

Defendant then was found guilty, and this appeal followed.

Although defendant's brief is somewhat confusing, it appears defendant takes issue with the trial court's partial denial of her motion to suppress during trial and admission of oral testimony as to the results of her blood test. Defendant's pretrial motion to suppress was based on the claim that a blood test must be taken either incident to arrest, or with the consent of the person tested, and that neither occurred here. Defendant's objection at trial was based on the alleged failure of hospital personnel to meet the standards required by statute for those performing blood tests.

• 1 Because we agree with defendant that hospital personnel failed to meet the statutory requirements, we reverse and remand on that issue. This makes unnecessary any discussion of the remaining arrest or consent issues.

The controlling statute in this case is section 11-501 of the Illinois Vehicle Code, which in ...

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