Appeal from the District Court Arapahoe County District Court
Case No. 15CR1230 Honorable Frederick T. Martinez, Judge
Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: George H. Brauchler,
District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District Jennifer
Gilbert, Deputy District Attorney Centennial, Colorado
Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: Graf & Associates, P.C.
Gregory C. Graf Greenwood Village, Colorado
JUSTICE EID concurs in the judgment, and CHIEF JUSTICE RICE
and JUSTICE COATS join in the concurrence in the judgment.
The defendant, Oliver Hyde, was involved in a single-vehicle
accident that left him unconscious. The police suspected that
he might have been driving under the influence of alcohol.
Hyde was transported to the hospital, and, in accordance with
Colorado law, a sample of his blood was taken to establish
his blood-alcohol concentration ("BAC").
Hyde was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol
("DUI"). He sought to have the result of the blood
test suppressed as evidence obtained through an illegal
search in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United
States Constitution. The trial court granted his motion to
suppress, and the People filed this interlocutory appeal.
In this opinion, we consider whether this warrantless blood
draw violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on
unreasonable searches. By driving in
Colorado, Hyde consented to the terms of the Expressed
Consent Statute, including its requirement that he submit to
blood-alcohol testing under the circumstances present here.
Hyde's statutory consent satisfied the consent exception
to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. We therefore
conclude that in the circumstances presented here, the blood
draw was constitutional. Accordingly, we reverse the trial
court's suppression order.
Facts and Procedural History
On February 10, 2015, just after midnight, Aurora Police
Department ("APD") officers responded to an
accident at Iliff Avenue and I-225, where the defendant had
driven his pickup truck into a light pole, despite seemingly
safe driving conditions. One of the first officers to arrive
on the scene found Hyde unconscious, pinned in the
driver's seat, with blood gurgling from his mouth. She
got within a few inches of Hyde to determine whether he was
breathing and smelled alcohol. Passengers in the truck
explained that they had attended a basketball game earlier
that evening; one passenger stated that Hyde had consumed
three beers. After fire personnel extracted Hyde from the
truck, an ambulance crew took him to a nearby hospital. En
route, Hyde regained consciousness and became combative.
Therefore, the ambulance crew sedated him.
APD requested that hospital staff perform a blood draw, which
revealed that slightly less than two hours after the
accident, Hyde's BAC was 0.06. That BAC level permits an
inference that Hyde drove while impaired by the consumption
of alcohol. See § 42-4-1301(6)(a)(II), C.R.S.
(2016). Because Hyde was unconscious, APD did not ask for his
consent before ordering the blood draw. APD also did not seek
a search warrant.
The People charged Hyde with DUI. Hyde sought to suppress the
blood-draw evidence, arguing that the police lacked probable
cause to request a blood-alcohol test and that, by conducting
a warrantless draw without his contemporaneous consent, the
police violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from
The trial court found there was probable cause to believe
Hyde was driving under the influence, but it agreed with Hyde
that the warrantless blood draw, administered while he was
unconscious and had no opportunity to refuse, violated the
Fourth Amendment. Relying primarily on Missouri v.
McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013), and the plurality
opinion in People v. Schaufele, 2014 CO 43, 325 P.3d
1060, the trial court reasoned that while Colorado's
Expressed Consent Statute, section 42-4-1301.1, C.R.S.
(2016), deems drivers to have consented to a blood or breath
test, this statutory consent did not satisfy the consent
exception to the warrant requirement because it did not
afford the unconscious driver the chance to return to
consciousness and revoke his consent. The trial court
therefore granted Hyde's motion to suppress the
The People filed this interlocutory appeal under section
16-12-102(2), C.R.S. (2016), and C.A.R. 4.1. They ask this
court to determine whether the trial court erred in
concluding that the warrantless blood draw violated the
Standard of Review
Review of a trial court's suppression order presents a
mixed question of fact and law. People v.
Munoz-Gutierrez, 2015 CO 9, ¶ 14, 342 P.3d 439,
443. We defer to the trial court's findings of fact that
are supported by the record, but we assess the legal effect
of those facts de novo. Id.; see also People v.
Chavez-Barragan, 2016 CO 66, ¶¶ 33-35, 379
P.3d 330, 338 (examining the standards of review this court
has historically applied to questions of voluntariness);
People v. Matheny, 46 P.3d 453, 459 (Colo. 2002)
("[W]hen a constitutional right is implicated . . .
appellate courts should not defer to a lower court's
judgment when applying legal standards to the facts found by
the trial court.").
We begin with an overview of the relevant provisions of
Colorado's Expressed Consent Statute and the Fourth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. We then consider
whether the blood draw conducted in this case was permissible
under the Fourth Amendment. By driving in Colorado, Hyde
consented to the terms of the Expressed Consent Statute,
including its requirement that he submit to blood-alcohol
testing under the circumstances present here. Hyde's
statutory consent satisfied the consent exception to the
Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. We therefore conclude
that in the circumstances presented here, the blood draw was
constitutional. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's
The Legal Backdrop
With the rise of motor vehicle usage in the twentieth
century, states found themselves confronting a grave problem:
the devastating consequences of drunk drivers on the
nation's roadways. Birchfield v. North Dakota,
136 S.Ct. 2160, 2167 (2016). In response, states enacted laws
making it illegal to drive while intoxicated. Id.
But a prohibition on drunk driving was not enough to conquer
the problem. In order to obtain evidence necessary for
securing convictions under the new laws, states began to
enact implied consent laws designed to encourage drivers to
submit to blood-alcohol tests. See Comment, The
Theory and Practice of Implied Consent in Colorado, 47
U. Colo. L. Rev. 723, 724 (1976); Colo. Legis. Council,
Research Pub. No. 123, Highway Safety in Colorado 43 (1966)
("Advocates of implied consent argue that a much greater
conviction rate could be obtained against persons charged
with driving while under the influence than at present
through adoption of implied consent legislation.").