Monday, March 28, 2011

DWI Appeal - Texas Rules Burden on Defense to Suppress Blood

In State of Texas v. Robinson, --- S.W.3d ----, 2011 WL 891294 (Tex.Crim.App.), the appeals court was called upon to determine who had the burden in a motion to suppress a blood test. The Defendant was arrested without a warrant for DWI and transported to a hospital, where blood was drawn. He filed a motion to suppress the results, claiming that the arrest was without a warrant and without consent. The trial court found that once there was proof that the arrest was without a warrant, then the burden of proving that the blood was drawn in conformance with the statutory provisions shifted to the State.

At the hearing, the officer testified that he could not recall whether the person who drew the blood was a nurse, chemist, or otherwise qualified under law to draw the blood sample. The trial court then suppressed the blood evidence based on the fact that “the State has not met the burden to prove that it was [a qualified person] that took it.” The State appealed, arguing that the defendant should have the initial burden of proving an actual violation, before the burden shifted to them to prove full compliance.

On appeal, the court agreed with the State. It held that the defendant has the initial burden, which shifts to the State only when the defendant has produced evidence of a statutory violation. Thus, the failure to recall who drew the blood, rather than proof that the person who drew the blood was not qualified, was insufficient to grant the motion to suppress.

NOTE: Oddly, this ruling is inapposite to the proof necessary at trial. At trial the state would have to prove actual compliance, and the lack of recall would be insufficient to admit the result. It seems like this ruling in essence would discourage a defendant from filing a pre-trial motion, knowing that doing so would transpose the burdens. The Dissenting opinion also suggests that the ruling was incorrect for the same reasons.

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