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People v. Simpson

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

April 17, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant:
v.
William Paul Simpson, Defendant-Appellee:

         Interlocutory Appeal from the District Court Arapahoe County District Court Case No. 15CR212 Honorable F. Stephen Collins, Judge

          Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant: George H. Brauchler, District Attorney, Eighteenth Judicial District Jennifer Gilbert, Deputy District Attorney Richard Orman, Senior Deputy District Attorney Centennial, Colorado

          Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender Elsa Archambault Lucienne Ohanian Centennial, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amici Curiae Denver District Attorney's Office and Colorado District Attorneys' Council: Mitchell R. Morrissey, District Attorney, Second Judicial District Katherine A. Hansen, Deputy District Attorney Denver, Colorado

          JUSTICE EID concurs in the judgment, and CHIEF JUSTICE RICE and JUSTICE COATS join in the concurrence in the judgment.

          OPINION

          HOOD, JUSTICE

         ¶1 Colorado's Expressed Consent Statute provides that any motorist who drives on the roads of the state has consented to take a blood or breath test when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer with probable cause to suspect the motorist of driving under the influence. In this interlocutory appeal, we review the trial court's ruling that an advisement accurately informing the defendant, William Paul Simpson, of this law amounted to coercion that rendered his consent to a blood test involuntary and required suppression of the test result.

         ¶2 By driving in Colorado, Simpson consented to the terms of the Expressed Consent Statute, including its requirement that he submit to a blood draw under the circumstances present here. That prior statutory consent eliminated the need for the trial court to assess the voluntariness of Simpson's consent at the time of his interaction with law enforcement. Simpson's prior statutory consent satisfies the consent exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, the blood draw at issue here was constitutional. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's suppression of the blood-draw evidence.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶3 On January 25, 2015, Officer Mason MacDonald saw a pickup truck bounce off a curb four times, turn across a median, and then oversteer into oncoming traffic while entering an apartment complex parking lot. Officer MacDonald turned on his overhead lights and followed the truck into the parking lot. The truck initially stopped but then slowly crept forward.

         ¶4 Eventually, the truck came to a full stop. Officer MacDonald approached and found Simpson in the driver's seat. Officer MacDonald immediately smelled alcohol on Simpson's breath and saw that Simpson's eyes were red and watery. He asked Simpson whether he had been drinking, and Simpson replied in the affirmative. He asked Simpson to get out of the truck, but Simpson was unable to comply without assistance. Simpson was ultimately transported to the hospital for medical attention.

         ¶5 At the hospital, Officer MacDonald read Simpson an expressed consent advisement form titled "Colorado Express Consent Law Information." In relevant part, the form stated:

1. By driving a motor vehicle in Colorado, you have agreed to submit to a blood or breath test to determine the alcohol content of your blood or breath if a police officer has probable cause to believe you have been driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of, or impaired by, alcohol.
. . . .
5. A refusal to sign any release or consent forms required by a person authorized to take or withdraw specimens is a refusal ...

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