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State v. Weakland

Supreme Court of Arizona

February 25, 2019

State of Arizona, Appellee,
Courtney Noelle Weakland, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Superior Court in Pima County The Honorable Casey F. McGinley, Judge Pro Tempore No. CR20153118-001

         Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division Two 244 Ariz. 79 (App. 2017)

          Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Dominic E. Draye, Solicitor General, Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel, Mariette S. Ambri (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Appeals Section, Tucson, Attorneys for State of Arizona

          Dean J. Brault, Legal Defender, Robb P. Holmes (argued), Assistant Legal Defender, Pima County Legal Defender's Office, Tucson, Attorneys for Courtney Noelle Weakland

          Mary C. Trejo, Tucson Public Defender, Kristina J. Bohn, Supervising Public Defender, Tucson, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Tucson Public Defender's Office

          David J. Euchner (argued), Pima County Public Defender's Office, Tucson; and Joseph P. St. Louis, Nesci & St. Louis, P.L.L.C., Tucson, Attorneys for Amici Curiae Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice and National College for DUI Defense

          JUSTICE LOPEZ authored the opinion of the Court, in which VICE CHIEF JUSTICE BRUTINEL and JUSTICES TIMMER and GOULD joined.

          LOPEZ JUSTICE.

         ¶1 We here consider whether the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies, in a prosecution for driving under the influence ("DUI"), to admit blood evidence unconstitutionally obtained after State v. Butler, 232 Ariz. 84 (2013), but before State v. Valenzuela (Valenzuela II), 239 Ariz. 299 (2016). We hold that the good-faith exception applies because application of the exclusionary rule in these circumstances would not meaningfully deter police misconduct. Butler did not "unsettle" the law, and it is unreasonable to require police to predict a change in the law when our trial and appellate courts failed to do so. I.

         ¶2 In February 2015, an Oro Valley police officer arrested Courtney Weakland for DUI. The officer handcuffed her, put her in the back seat of his patrol car, and read her an "admin per se" form pursuant to A.R.S. § 28-1321. The form provided that Arizona law "require[d]" her to complete certain tests to determine her blood-alcohol concentration ("BAC"). She submitted to a blood draw, which revealed a BAC of .218, nearly three times the legal limit. Weakland was indicted on one count of aggravated DUI while impaired to the slightest degree and one count of aggravated DUI with a BAC of .08 or more.

         ¶3 Before trial, Weakland moved to suppress all evidence obtained through the warrantless search and seizure of her blood sample, arguing that the "requirement" language in the admin per se admonition coerced her consent. The trial court summarily denied her motion. Weakland was convicted on both counts.

          ¶4 On appeal, Weakland argued that, pursuant to Valenzuela II, her blood was obtained without a warrant and without valid consent, and that the good-faith exception recognized in Valenzuela II did not apply. The State implicitly conceded on appeal that Weakland's consent to the blood draw was involuntary and, thus, invalid pursuant to Valenzuela II, but argued that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule obviated the need to suppress the blood evidence. In a divided opinion, the court of appeals affirmed. State v. Weakland, 244 Ariz. 79 (App. 2017). The majority reasoned that, because Arizona courts had not held that the admin per se admonition was "coercive, ineffective, or otherwise [affirmatively] negated consent" until Valenzuela II, police acted in good faith when they read it to Weakland after her arrest. See id. at 83 ¶ 19, 85 ¶ 24. The dissent argued that although existing precedent may have justified applying the good-faith exception to the defendant's 2012 arrest in Valenzuela II, this Court's 2013 Butler decision placed police on notice before Weakland's 2015 arrest that use of the admin per se admonition was constitutionally suspect. Id. at 85 ¶¶ 27-28 (Eckerstrom, C.J., dissenting). The applicability of the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule for cases involving use of the admin per se admonition after Butler, but before Valenzuela II, is a recurring issue of statewide importance. We have jurisdiction pursuant to article 6, section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution. II.

         ¶5 "We review the denial of a motion to suppress evidence for abuse of discretion, considering the facts in the light most favorable to sustaining the ruling." Valenzuela II, 239 Ariz. at 302 ¶ 9. We review de novo the applicability of the good-faith exception. State v. Havatone, 241 Ariz. 506, 509 ¶ 11 (2017).

         ¶6 "The exclusionary rule, which allows suppression of evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment, is a prudential doctrine invoked [solely] to deter future violations." Valenzuela II, 239 Ariz. at 308-09 ¶ 31 (citing Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229, 236-37 (2011)). "Exclusion is 'not a personal constitutional right,' nor is it designed to 'redress the injury' occasioned by an unconstitutional search." Davis, 564 U.S. at 236 (quoting Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 486 (1976)). Because "a deterrence purpose can only be served when the evidence to be suppressed is derived from a search which the [police] knew or should have known was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment," United States v. Johnson, 457 U.S. 537, 565 (1982) (White, J., dissenting), the rule is intended to deter only "deliberate, reckless, or grossly negligent conduct, or in some circumstances recurring or systemic negligence." Herring v. United States, 555 U.S. 135, 144 (2009). Therefore, "when the police act with an objectively reasonable good-faith belief that their conduct is lawful, or when their conduct involves only simple, isolated negligence," the good-faith exception applies because "the deterrence rationale loses much of its force, and exclusion cannot pay its way." Davis, 564 U.S. at 238 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted); see also A.R.S. § 13-3925 (codifying good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule).

         ¶7 "Real deterrent value is a 'necessary condition for exclusion,' but it is not 'a sufficient' one." Davis, 564 U.S. at 237 (quoting Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586, 596 (2006)). "For exclusion to be appropriate, the deterrence benefits of suppression must [also] outweigh its heavy costs." Id. (noting that exclusion's "bottom-line effect, in many cases, is to suppress the truth and set the criminal loose in the community without punishment"). Consequently, exclusion of evidence should be a "last resort." Id. (quoting Hudson, 547 U.S. at 591). The state bears the burden of establishing that the good-faith exception applies. Havatone, 241 Ariz. at 511 ¶ 19. III.

         ¶8 This case turns on whether police objectively, reasonably relied on "binding appellate precedent" in using the admin per se admonition at the time of Weakland's arrest after Butler but before Valenzuela II. See Havatone, 241 Ariz. at 512 ¶ 24. Stated differently, we must determine whether the law regarding the admonition was "unsettled" at the time of Weakland's arrest, meaning law enforcement officers could not rely on precedent to authorize the illegal search. Id. at 512-13 ¶ 29 (citing Davis, 564 U.S. at 250 (Sotomayor, J., concurring in the judgment)). When making this assessment, we do not require police to have a "crystal ball" in determining what courts may conclude in future cases but rather require them to act in objectively reasonable reliance on then-existing authority. State v. Jean, 243 Ariz. 331, 343 ¶ 45 (2018); see United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 919 n.20 (1984) (stating that the good-faith exception requires that police have "a reasonable knowledge of what the law prohibits").

         ¶9 Mindful of tension between Havatone and Jean, we clarify the standard for the good-faith exception. We noted in Havatone that "Davis instructs that law enforcement acts in good faith if 'binding appellate precedent specifically authorizes a particular police practice.'" 241 Ariz. at 512 ¶ 24 (quoting Davis, 564 U.S. at 241). Although an accurate statement, Davis did not limit the good-faith exception only to circumstances when appellate precedent specifically authorizes a police practice. In fact, in Jean, we rejected the proposition that "to qualify as 'binding appellate precedent under Davis,' a case 'must specifically authorize the precise conduct under consideration.'" 243 Ariz. at 343 ¶ 45 (quoting United States v. Katzin, 769 F.3d 163, 173-76 (3d Cir. 2014)). Instead, we concluded that the good-faith exception applies if the search was "conducted in objectively reasonable reliance on . . . binding appellate precedent . . . ." Jean, 243 Ariz. at 343 ¶ 47; see also Valenzuela II, 239 Ariz. at 309 ¶ 31 ("[W]hen law enforcement officers 'act with an objectively reasonable good-faith belief that their conduct is lawful,' deterrence is unnecessary and the exclusionary rule does not apply." (quoting Davis, 564 U.S. at 238)). We find Jean's approach more consistent with Davis's reasoning and the purpose of the exclusionary rule and the good-faith exception to it. See Davis, 564 U.S. at 240-41, 249 (reasoning that the exclusionary rule does not apply where police reasonably rely on binding appellate precedent because "[p]olice practices trigger the harsh sanction of exclusion only when they are deliberate enough to yield 'meaningfu[l]' deterrence, and culpable enough to be 'worth the price paid by the justice system'" (alteration in original) (citations omitted)). We see no reason to limit the good-faith exception to police practices that appellate precedent specifically authorizes when the rationale for the exception applies with equal force where binding appellate precedent otherwise supports the practice. To the extent that Havatone and Jean conflict, and despite Justice Bolick's reliance on the "specific authorization" standard, infra ¶¶ 41, 48, we reaffirm Jean's reasonableness approach.

         ¶10 Weakland contends that the good-faith exception does not apply in her case because Butler "unsettled" the law. We are unpersuaded. Although in Havatone we embraced the somewhat opaque concept (at least in its application) that the good-faith exception should not apply when the law is "unsettled" as to the constitutionality of a police practice, 241 Ariz. at 512-13 ¶ 29, merely branding the state of the law between Butler and Valenzuela II as "unsettled" does not repudiate Arizona's appellate courts' repeated authorization of the admin per se admonition.

         ¶11 The gravamen of Weakland's argument is that the good-faith exception should not apply to her case because, after Butler, the police should have known that administering the admin per se admonition, pursuant to § 28-1321, would be insufficient as an exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement or would be insufficient, by itself, to establish voluntary consent to the test. In other words, if Butler did not expressly invalidate use of the admonition, it at least "unsettled" the law. Either way, Weakland contends, Butler put police on notice that use of the form was constitutionally dubious. We disagree.

         ¶12 The issue in Butler was "whether the Fourth Amendment . . . requires that a juvenile arrestee's consent be voluntary to allow a warrantless blood draw." 232 Ariz. at 86 ¶ 1. Applying Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. 141 (2013), this Court held that the Fourth Amendment requires that, "independent of § 28-1321," an arrestee's consent to a warrantless blood draw be voluntary under the totality of the circumstances. Id. at 88 ¶ 18. Although this Court assessed the circumstances under which the juvenile defendant assented to the warrantless blood draw after hearing the admonition, including his age, the duration of his detention, the absence of his parents, and his disquieted demeanor, the sufficiency of consent given in response to the admin per se admonition alone was not otherwise before the Court. Id. at 88-89 ¶¶ 20-21. Indeed, if it were, the Court could have found the lack of voluntary consent based solely on use of the admonition without discussing other factors. Id. at 91 ¶ 32 (Pelander, J., concurring) (noting facts also showed that the juvenile's consent in response to the admonition was voluntary and concluding that "had the juvenile court found [the juvenile's] consent voluntary, I would have had no difficulty affirming that ruling, and I doubt my colleagues would have either"). If anything, Butler emphasizes that the totality of the circumstances must be considered in determining compliance with the Fourth Amendment and illustrates that factors such as a juvenile arrestee's age and circumstances can override what otherwise may have been voluntary consent to a blood test following the admonition. See Butler, 232 Ariz. at 88 ¶ 18. But it did not implicitly suggest that consent given in response to the admin per se admonition is involuntary, absent other circumstances, as we later held in Valenzuela II. 239 Ariz. at 301 ¶ 2.

         ¶13 In sum, Butler did not address whether use of the admonition was inherently coercive, did not clearly address its effect, and did not expressly question its validity. In fact, Butler failed to meaningfully acknowledge the two binding appellate cases authorizing use of the language on the admin per se admonition- Campbell v. Superior Court,106 Ariz. 542 (1971), and State v. Brito,183 Ariz. 535 (App. 1995). Consequently, Butler did not "unsettle" ...

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