No More Coercion At DUII Arrest
IMPORTANT NEW DECISION ISSUED BY THE COURT OF APPEALS SUPPORTS THE RIGHT OF THE DUII SUSPECT NOT TO BE COERCED INTO GIVING INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE TO THE POLICE
On September 30, 2009, the Oregon Court of Appeals handed down an important decision in the case of State vs. Thomas Gregory Machuca, which supports the right of the DUII suspect not to be coerced into furnishing incriminating evidence to the police.
Under Oregon’s Implied Consent Law, police officers routinely procure breath, blood and urine samples from DUII suspects under threats that, if such evidence is withheld, the suspect’s license will be suspended and financial penalties will be imposed.
Criminal Defense attorneys have long opposed such punitive actions on the part of the government, maintaining that penalizing the suspect for refusing to provide incriminating evidence negates the right of the motorist to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, as guaranteed by Article I, Section 9, of the Oregon Constitution, as well as the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Courts have routinely rejected the arguments made by DUII defendants, and have allowed breath, blood and urine evidence to be introduced by the government, even where such evidence was obtained under threats of punitive sanctions. The courts have routinely accepted the assertion by the government that such evidence is not obtained under coercive circumstances.
In the case of State vs. Thomas Gregory Machuca, however, the Court of Appeals declared that the practice of obtaining incriminating evidence from DUII suspects as a result of threats of punitive sanctions may no longer be allowed in the State of Oregon.
Mr. Machuca had been taken to a hospital emergency room, where he was being treated following a motor vehicle accident. The police responded, and were seeking to obtain incriminating evidence. Specifically, the police sought to obtain a sample of Mr. Machuca’s blood. The police officer read to Mr. Machuca the “implied consent rights and consequences” warnings that are customarily read to DUII suspects in the State of Oregon. Among other things, the warnings include the statement that, if the suspect refuses to give a sample of his breath, blood or urine, the suspect will face suspension of his driving privileges of one year or more, as well as a financial penalty. Having been read the “implied consent rights and consequences”, Mr. Machuca allowed the police to obtain a sample of his blood. Once the case got into court, defense counsel maintained that Mr. Machuca’s consent to the police obtaining Mr. Machuca’s blood was invalid.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that, when the government obtains evidence under threats of adverse consequences, as is the usual practice in a DUII investigation, the suspect’s “consent” to the gathering of such evidence is not voluntary. Henceforth, the Machuca decision will be relied upon by other persons to support their claim that the police have violated their rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.