Indiana Court of Appeals throws out results of a blood draw in county fatal crash

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2013

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Court of Appeals threw out the results of a blood draw performed on a 17-year-old female driver involved in a fatal Hancock County crash in 2021. Officials with the Court of Appeals say the girl did not have the opportunity to consult her mother prior to consenting to the blood test, therefore violating her rights.

According to a Court of Appeal ruling, in a 3-0 decision, the appellate court said on Nov. 23 Indiana law clearly requires juveniles participate in “meaningful consultation” with a parent or guardian prior to waiving any right guaranteed by the federal or state constitution, including the protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

“The state bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt the juvenile received all of the protections of Indiana Code section 31-32-5-1, and both the juvenile and the parent or guardian knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived the juvenile’s rights,” wrote Senior Judge Ezra Friedlander on behalf of the appeals court.

According to court records, the 17-year-old girl was driving a sport utility vehicle on April 6, 2021, in Fortville when she collided with motorcyclist Guy David Washburn, who later died from injuries suffered in the crash. The girl was unhurt.

Guy David Washburn, 27, Carthage, was southbound near the intersection of CR 900N when another vehicle apparently turned into his path, investigators said. He was airlifted to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis but died shortly thereafter.

Washburn was a father of three small children, ages 4, 3 and 9 months. He was returning home from his job as a carpenter when the accident occurred, his mother, Danita K. Washburn, said at the time of the crash.

Capt. Robert Harris, public information officer for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, said the juvenile driver of a northbound 2017 Jeep Patriot apparently turned into the path of Washburn’s 2002 Suzuki motorcycle at CR 900N just before the collision.

The name of the driver of the Jeep was not being released at the time since the girl was a juvenile.

Records show a then Fortville Police Officer, Matt Fox, separately advised the girl and her mother, after she arrived at the crash site, that a blood draw is required by law anytime there is a motor vehicle crash with serious injuries.

However, Fox never advised them that the girl had a statutory right to consult with her mother before agreeing to the blood draw, even though the officer acknowledged doing so would have taken “10 seconds” at most, according to court records.

Records show Fox drove the girl in his marked police vehicle at a normal speed, without using emergency lights or a siren to a hospital 24 minutes away from the crash site for the blood draw while her mother drove separately.

The blood sample allegedly revealed the presence of THC, a controlled substance, spurring prosecutors to accuse the girl of being a delinquent child for committing acts that, if they’d been committed by an adult, would equate to causing death while operating a motor vehicle with a controlled substance in the bloodstream, a level 4 felony; and reckless homicide, a level 5 felony, according to court records.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton said his office has not decided how to handle the case just yet following the decision.

“We are working with the Attorney General and the State prosecutor association on the next steps,” Eaton said. “We’re unsure at this time how it will play out.”

In March, the girl’s attorney filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the blood draw, claiming the evidence was obtained in violation of her federal and state constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

In April, Hancock County Circuit Court Judge Scott Sirk denied a motion to suppress the results of the blood draw. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruling reverses that decision.

The appellate judges said notwithstanding the implied consent to participate in a breath or chemical test when an Indiana motorist is suspected of being impaired, juvenile drivers remain entitled to consult with a parent or guardian prior to consenting to any search.

In this case, both the girl and her mother testified they would have exercised their right to talk privately if Fox had informed them of that right, according to court records.

The appeals court said the attorney general’s claim that exigent circumstances warranted ignoring the state’s parental consultation mandate fell short because the girl presented no visible signs of impairment and Fox demonstrated no urgency in getting the girl to the hospital for the blood test.

“Absent a valid consent or exigent circumstances, the state’s warrantless draw of (the girl’s) blood violated her Fourth Amendment rights,” Friedlander wrote in the decision.

The attorney general can ask the Indiana Supreme Court to consider reviewing the Court of Appeals ruling and reinstate the blood test results. If not, the pending case against the girl would have to proceed without the results.