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People v. Harrison

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

February 18, 2016

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
STEPHEN HARRISON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, No. 11-CF-724; the Hon. Jan V. Fiss, Judge, presiding.

          Paul M. Storment III, of Belleville, for appellant.

          Brendan F. Kelly, State's Attorney, of Belleville (Patrick Delfino, Stephen E. Norris, and Patrick D. Daly, all of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          Panel PRESIDING JUSTICE SCHWARM delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Welch and Goldenhersh concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          SCHWARM, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 After refusing to submit to a breath test following his arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), the defendant, Stephen Harrison, was taken to a hospital where samples of his blood were drawn without a warrant or his consent. Testing of the samples revealed that more than two hours after the defendant had been driving, his blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) was over twice the legal limit of 0.08. The defendant later moved to suppress the test results, arguing that the blood samples had been illegally obtained. Following the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion, the cause proceeded to a jury trial where the defendant was convicted on two counts of aggravated DUI.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, the defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. In support of this contention, the defendant relies on Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. __, 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013), and People v. Armer, 2014 IL App (5th) 130342, both of which stand for the propositions that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream is not a per se exigent circumstance justifying a warrantless, nonconsensual draw of a DUI suspect's blood and that the reasonableness of such a draw must be decided on a case-by-case basis by considering the totality of the circumstances. Citing Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229, 131 S.Ct. 2419 (2011), and People v. Jones, 214 Ill.2d 187 (2005), the State counters that because prior to McNeely and Armer, a warrantless, nonconsensual draw of a DUI suspect's blood was authorized by binding precedent interpreting section 11-501.2(c)(2) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-501.2(c)(2) (West 2010)), the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion on the basis that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule was applicable under the circumstances. For the reasons that follow, we agree with the State and affirm the trial court's judgment.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 On March 3, 2011, at approximately 9:30 p.m., the defendant was driving his pickup truck home from a bar when he "T-boned" an oncoming motorcycle while making a left turn across Lebanon Avenue at Center Plaza Drive in Belleville. The motorcycle's rider, Jason Wilson, sustained a massive injury to his left leg as a result and was transported by ambulance to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Belleville. A witness to the accident described Wilson's leg as "pretty much amputated" at the scene, and Wilson later recalled that he had panicked when he "thought [he] saw bone sticking out of it and blood squirting out." Wilson was ultimately airlifted to St. Louis University Hospital, where his left leg was surgically amputated at the knee.

         ¶ 5 Officer Anthony Branchini of the Belleville police department responded to the scene of the accident shortly after it occurred. Branchini spoke with the defendant and two independent eyewitnesses but was unable to talk to Wilson "because of the condition that he was in." While speaking with the defendant, Branchini noticed that the defendant had red, glossy eyes and an odor of alcohol emanating from his person. Acknowledging that he had struck Wilson with his truck, the defendant told Branchini that he had just left a bar in Shiloh where he had consumed "two beers." Branchini subsequently administered various field sobriety tests, all of which the defendant failed. Believing that the defendant had been operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol, Branchini placed him under arrest for DUI.

         ¶ 6 After the defendant refused to submit to a breath test at the Belleville police department, Branchini transported him to St. Elizabeth's Hospital so that samples of his blood could be drawn for toxicological testing. At trial, Branchini indicated that he had obtained the blood samples "[d]ue to the severity of [Wilson's] injuries" and that there were "special laws" that allowed him to do so.

         ¶ 7 At 11:45 p.m., a nurse at St. Elizabeth's drew two samples of the defendant's blood at Branchini's request. Although the defendant did not agree to the procedure, he was apparently cooperative while the samples were collected. A forensic toxicologist later analyzed the samples, and the analysis revealed that the concentration of ethanol in the blood was 0.161 grams per deciliter.

         ¶ 8 On October 29, 2014, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the test results derived from the blood draw. Citing Armer, the defendant maintained that the blood draw was a nonconsensual, warrantless search and seizure and that "there were no exigent circumstances which would excuse the need for a warrant."

         ¶ 9 At the hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress, the State argued that Armer was distinguishable from the present case because it had not involved an accident resulting in death or personal injury to another. Citing Jones, the State further argued that Branchini had acted in good-faith reliance on established precedent holding that warrantless, nonconsensual blood draws were permissible pursuant ...


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