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State v. Nissley

Supreme Court of Arizona

February 1, 2017

State of Arizona, Appellee,
v.
Patrick McLeod Nissley, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable Bruce R. Cohen, Judge No. CR2011-110536 REMANDED

         Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One 238 Ariz. 446, 362 P.3d 493 (App. 2015) VACATED

          Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Dominic Draye, Solicitor General, Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel, Criminal Appeals Section, Terry M. Crist, III, (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, Attorneys for State of Arizona.

          Natalee Segal (argued), Ballecer & Segal, LLP, Phoenix, Attorneys for Patrick McLeod Nissley.

          Mikel Steinfield (argued) and Kevin Heade, Maricopa County Public Defender's Office, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

          JUSTICE TIMMER authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER, and JUSTICES BRUTINEL and BOLICK joined.

          OPINION

          TIMMER, JUSTICE

         ¶1 A law enforcement officer must ordinarily obtain a search warrant to take an involuntary blood sample from a suspect. Arizona's medical blood draw exception to the warrant requirement, however, requires medical personnel to provide upon request a portion of any blood sample taken from a patient when the officer has probable cause to believe that the patient had been driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. A.R.S. § 28-1388(E). This exception applies only when the sample is drawn for medical reasons and exigent circumstances exist. See State v. Cocio, 147 Ariz. 277, 286, 709 P.2d 1336, 1345 (1985).

         ¶2 The issue here is whether and under what circumstances the exception can apply when a suspect contends that medical personnel rendered treatment against the suspect's will. We hold that the state is required to prove that a suspect expressly or impliedly consented to medical treatment or that medical personnel acted when the suspect was incapable of directing his or her own medical treatment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         ¶3 In reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress, "we consider only evidence presented at the suppression hearing and view the facts in the light most favorable to sustaining the trial court's ruling." State v. Valenzuela, 239 Ariz. 299, 301 ¶ 3, 371 P.3d 627, 629 (2016) (citation and internal quotations omitted).

         ¶4 On a late afternoon in November 2010, Patrick Nissley drove his car erratically and at a high speed through Scottsdale traffic, crossing lanes and swerving onto a sidewalk. Tragically, Nissley crashed into an oncoming car, injuring four people and killing a pedestrian. Emergency personnel quickly arrived, including city-employed paramedics. They found Nissley delirious, flailing his arms, and screaming incoherently.

         ¶5 Nissley had suffered a head wound and was covered in blood from numerous cuts. He was uncooperative with paramedics, yelling obscenities and demanding to be left alone. The paramedics ignored these demands, concluding that Nissley could not make coherent decisions for his own care. They restrained him and loaded him into an ambulance. He fought them throughout the ride to the hospital. Once there, medical personnel sedated him for treatment and took a blood sample for medical purposes.

         ¶6 A police officer came to the hospital. She asked for and received a portion of Nissley's blood sample without first procuring a warrant. Subsequent testing of the blood revealed the presence of methamphetamine and an active metabolite of heroin. The State indicted Nissley on charges of ...


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