Vermont v. Rajda

In consolidated cases, the State of Vermont appealed the trial court’s interlocutory orders granting defendants’ motions in limine seeking to suppress evidence of their refusal to submit to blood tests to determine if they were operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs (DUI). The trial court granted the motions in limine based on its conclusion that in Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016), the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right, pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, to refuse to submit to a warrantless blood test. In the trial court’s view, that constitutional right superseded Vermont’s implied consent law and precluded the State from introducing evidence of defendants’ refusal at their criminal DUI trial. The State challenged the trial court’s interpretation of Birchfield, arguing the federal Supreme Court indicated evidence of a refusal to take a warrantless blood test in the context of a DUI arrest and prosecution could be admitted at trial as evidence of guilt. Defendants responded that the constitutional issue had been effectively mooted by a post-Birchfield amendment to Vermont’s implied consent law and that, in any event, the trial court correctly construed Birchfield and other related federal law to prohibit the admission of evidence of a refusal to consent to a warrantless blood test. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the amendment to the implied consent law did not moot the constitutional issue, and that the trial court erred in determining, following the Birchfield decision, the Fourth Amendment prohibited admitting in a criminal DUI proceeding evidence of a defendant’s refusal to submit to a warrantless blood test requested pursuant to Vermont’s implied consent law. Accordingly, the Vermont Court reversed the trial court’s decisions granting defendants’ motions in limine and remanded the cases for further proceedings. View "Vermont v. Rajda" on Justia Law