DUI Dismissed Due to Questionable Consent
By: Mike Stetzer
Steve Padget gave police permission to take a blood sample from him after he was involved in, but not at fault, in a fatal accident with a motorcyclist in 2006. The blood was analyzed and the results indicated that Padget had been drinking prior to the accident and his blood alcohol content (BAC)
was almost twice the legal limit for driving, according to the Herald Tribune.
The night that the accident happened, Padget, 44, was driving to a hotel in Bradenton, Florida. He made a left turn while he was being followed by Roy Bowen, 37, who was on a motorcycle with a broken headlight and speeding. Bowen died in the crash and investigators determined that there was no way that Padget could have avoided the accident.
Although Padget was legally not at fault in the accident, the investigators asked for a blood sample because they wanted to know if he had been drinking. In Florida, police are not required to inform people that they may refuse to give a blood sample when their consent is required. If police have evidence that a person has committed a crime, consent is not necessary to collect evidence, including blood samples. In those cases the blood sample can be taken from a suspect by force if necessary.
Police did not suspect that Padget had been drinking at the time of the accident, but when the results of the blood test came back from the lab, he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor DUI. The family of the man who was killed in the accident pushed investigators to charge him with vehicular manslaughter.
Now a Manatee County judge has given Padget a huge break and ruled that the DUI charge against him must be dismissed because of a technicality. Since Padget did not cause the accident and police did not suspect that he was intoxicated, the judge found that he never should have been asked for a blood sample. Given that Padget should have never been asked to give blood, the judge decided that he did not give his consent. Therefore, without the blood alcohol content evidence that the blood test provided, there was no DUI case against Padget.
Although the police and investigators were not required to let Padget know that he could refuse the blood test, Manatee County Judge George K. Brown Jr. ruled that the Florida Highway Patrol had coerced him into providing them with a blood sample. Since Padget was not accused or even suspected of any crime at the time that the officers asked him for a blood sample, he could not be legally forced to give one. Padget was not at fault in the tragic accident, nor was he ever suspected of being at fault, so police had absolutely no reason to even ask him for the sample.
Judge Brown also found that Padget had not ever signed a Florida Highway Patrol consent form, which is standard procedure when blood is drawn. He believed that Padget felt pressured into giving the blood sample and did not willingly consent to the blood draw that was performed at the scene of the accident while Bowen lay dying nearby.
So while Padget may have gotten a lucky break in not being charged with DUI, the experience is not one to be envied. He is not likely to ever forget the fatal crash. Although he could not have prevented it from happening, given his blood alcohol content, the tables could have been turned in the blink of an eye.