Idaho court affirms ruling throwing out blood-draw test

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court has affirmed a northern Idaho judge's decision to toss out blood-draw test results in a fatal crash case because police failed to get a search warrant.

The court in a decision released Tuesday with statewide ramifications ruled that Kyle Rios, despite otherwise cooperating, withdrew his implied consent to blood-alcohol testing by refusing to sign a consent form.

The blood draw found that Rios had a blood alcohol content of 0.263 percent, three times the legal limit.

Rios faces charges of vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal crash and drunk driving following the Dec. 1, 2013, crash that killed Paul W. Stuk of Peck.

At one time under Idaho's "implied consent law," a warrant wasn't needed. That law stated that by taking advantage of the privilege of driving on Idaho's roads, a motorist had given his or her irrevocable implied consent to a blood draw.

However, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Idaho Supreme Court in December 2014 ruled that Idaho's implied consent law cannot be used by police to perform warrantless blood draws because that action violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The court said that police must get warrants before drawing blood from suspected drunk drivers who refuse to cooperate.

Rios challenged the blood draw. In early 2015, a 2nd District Court judge threw out the blood-draw test because police failed to get a warrant after Rios declined to sign the consent form.

The Idaho attorney general's office appealed, contending there's no evidence Rios verbally or physical resisted the blood draw.

"Implied consent may justify a warrantless blood draw only when (1) the driver gave his or her initial consent by voluntarily driving on Idaho roads, and (2) the driver did not revoke consent before the time of evidentiary testing," the Idaho Supreme Court said in the ruling released Tuesday.

At the time of the blood draw, the Idaho Supreme Court decision said, Rios declined to sign a consent form but "presented his arm to the phlebotomist and did not physically or verbally resist the blood draw."

"The State seems to argue Rios renewed his consent by voluntarily presenting his arm to the phlebotomist and failing to verbally or physically resist the blood draw," Chief Justice Jim Jones wrote. "We disagree. These actions show only that Rios complied with the officer's orders. Compliance with an officer's orders alone does not renew consent."

The Idaho attorney general's office declined to comment on Tuesday.

Rios has pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal crash. The case has been delayed until the Idaho Supreme Court ruling. Online court records note the Idaho Supreme Court decision in the case, but no new court dates have been set so far.

"These are serious charges," said his attorney, Tom Clark.

Justin Coleman, Nez Perce County senior deputy prosecutor, said the Idaho Supreme Court decision gives added clarity for police making arrests of suspected drunk drivers. As for prosecuting Rios, he said, "I feel pretty strong on the evidence we have outside of the blood draw." He declined to go into details.

A wrongful-death lawsuit has been filed against Rios by Stuk's family. The attorney handling the civil lawsuit, Darrel Aherin, said Tuesday that they're moving forward with the lawsuit that's seeking unspecified damages to be determined by a court.

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