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Name: People v. Arredondo
Case #: H040980
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 02/26/2016
Subsequent History: Review granted 6/8/2016: S233582

Warrantless blood draw from unconscious motorist suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) does not fall within the consent exception to the warrant requirement despite California’s imputed consent statute (Veh. Code, § 23612). In 2013, Arredondo flipped his Jeep with six passengers in it. While he was unconscious at the hospital, police had a phlebotomist draw his blood, which disclosed a BAC of 0.08 percent. He was charged with felony DUI and driving without a license. Arredondo moved to suppress the evidence derived from the warrantless blood draw. The court denied the motion reasoning that Arredondo had consented to the blood draw pursuant to California’s implied consent statute and, alternatively, if his implied consent was not itself enough to excuse the lack of a warrant, the court found that the officer had relied in good faith on the implied consent statute. Arredondo pleaded no contest and appealed. Held: Affirmed. A warrantless search that does not fall within an exception is presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Consent is one exception to the warrant requirement. California drivers are required to consent to blood and breath tests as a condition to receiving a driver’s license (Veh. Code, § 13384) and, in the case of unlicensed drivers or out-of-state drivers, the Vehicle Code deems the act of driving within the state to be consent to such tests (Veh. Code, § 23612). After discussing a number of California and out-of-state authorities, the Court of Appeal refused to find that consent obtained under section 23612 was sufficient to waive Fourth Amendment protections: “If imputed consent is to be held sufficient to sustain a warrantless search, the holding will have to come from a court other than this one.”

Because the officer relied in good faith on the imputed consent law, suppression not required. The purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter official misconduct by depriving the state of the fruits of unlawful searches. But when an officer acts in reasonable reliance (i.e., “good faith”) on facts or circumstances that would justify a warrantless search—including the applicable law—no deterrent effect is achieved by suppressing evidence. (See Davis v. United States (2011) 564 U.S. 229.) Here, the officer relied on California’s imputed consent law to justify the warrantless search (blood draw). His reliance was reasonable because no court had ever held the statute was not a sufficient basis to justify a warrantless search. Accordingly, the search was unconstitutional, but its fruits were admissible under the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: