Court ruling delays case of woman driving through house
August 6, 2014
By Ari Cetron
New: August 6, 11:14 a.m.
A recent court ruling is delaying the case surrounding a woman who drove through her house May 16, killing two people.
The woman drove a vehicle through her house in the 3400 block of East Lake Sammamish Shore Lane Southeast and out the other side, going across a deck.
In the process a 70-year-old man, the woman’s partner, was killed. The woman’s 40-year-old son-in-law was critically injured and later died at Harborview Medical Center.
The woman’s 34-year-old daughter was also critically injured, but she survived. The woman and her 3-year-old grandson, who was on her lap, were unhurt.
Somehow, the vehicle did not go into the water.
Officers at the scene believed the woman might be under the influence of some sort of drug, and that’s where the complication arises.
Police routinely obtain a search warrant so they can draw blood and test it for illicit substances, which is what happened in this case.
But a July 21 ruling in the case of State vs. Jose Figeroa Martines, issued by the state Court of Appeals, changed the equation. The ruling states, essentially, that a warrant for drawing the blood does not authorize the testing of that blood.
“The extraction of blood from a drunk driving suspect is a search. Testing the blood sample is a second search. It is distinct from the initial extraction because its purpose is to examine the personal information blood contains,” wrote Judge Mary Kay Becker.
The ruling goes on to explain that, for example, if an officer pulls someone over and that person seems under the influence of drugs or alcohol, that could give police probable cause to test the blood for the presence of those substances. However, that does not mean they could do other tests, such as run a DNA test to see if the person might have committed other crimes.
This change could have wide-ranging impacts, which law enforcement are studying. For example, it’s unclear how far back the ruling might apply, and if it could impact cases decided in the past.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office is still analyzing the impact of the ruling, said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. He said the prosecutor plans to file a motion with the Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling.
Sammamish Police Chief Nate Elledge explained that many search warrants for cases like this use boilerplate language that does not specify that the blood will be tested. As a result, it could complicate dozens of cases in which that language was used on warrants.
The warrants will likely be updated soon to specify the sorts of testing so the problem does not arise in future cases.
“Going forward, it shouldn’t be a problem, Elledge said.
In the case of the woman driving through the house, it means more delays.
Officers from the King County Sheriff’s Office will need to obtain a new warrant to test the blood and resubmit the sample for testing. Then, the results will be forwarded on to the prosecutor’s office, which will then determine whether or not to file charges said D.B. Gates, sheriff’s spokeswoman. It could mean a delay of a few months.