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Stowe v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

August 1, 2014

SARAH STOWE, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff)

Page 128

Appeal from the District Court of Carbon County. The Honorable Wade E. Waldrip, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel. Argument by Mr. Westling.

Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Senior Assistant Attorney General; John A. Brodie, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Brodie.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE [*], DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.

OPINION

Page 129

DAVIS, Justice.

[¶1] Sarah Stowe entered a conditional nolo contendere [1] plea to a felony charge of fourth-offense driving while under the influence of alcohol, reserving the right to appeal the district court's denial of her motion to suppress evidence. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Stowe contends that the results of a urine alcohol test should have been suppressed for two reasons:

1. Her urine was collected pursuant to an arrest that was unlawful because the arresting officer lacked probable cause to believe that she had been driving while intoxicated.
2. The result of her urinalysis was invalid because it was collected from a catheter in a manner that is contrary to the methods approved by the State Department of Health.

FACTS

[¶3] During the early morning hours of November 24, 2011, Stowe left Laramie and drove with her seven-year-old daughter toward their home in Casper. Approximately eighteen miles north of Medicine Bow on a dry Wyoming Highway 487, her vehicle crossed the southbound lane and ran off the west side of the road. It travelled three hundred and eighteen feet and rolled twice before coming to a stop.

Page 130

[¶4] A passerby drove the two northward from Carbon County into Natrona County until he obtained cellular phone service that allowed him to contact law enforcement and emergency medical services. He met two Natrona County deputy sheriffs, Corporal Cohee and Deputy Olson, as well as two ambulances, at the intersection with Wyoming Highway 220.

[¶5] At approximately 3:40 a.m., the Highway Patrol dispatched Casper-based State Trooper Adam Bruning to investigate the accident. The ambulances carrying Stowe and her daughter were en route to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper by the time the trooper reached the Highway 487 intersection, where he spoke with the man who had driven Stowe and her daughter there and the two deputies. The Good Samaritan briefly described the scene of the single vehicle rollover, and Corporal Cohee told Trooper Bruning about her conversation with Stowe prior to the departure of the ambulances. She observed that Stowe slurred her words and gave off the overpowering odor of an alcoholic beverage. When Stowe first explained the cause of the accident, she told Cohee that she had swerved to avoid hitting a deer. She later told the corporal she had swerved to avoid a rabbit.

[¶6] Believing that there was probable cause to arrest Stowe for driving while intoxicated, but needing to locate and examine the crash scene, Trooper Bruning asked Corporal Cohee if she could have a deputy in Casper go to the hospital and obtain a blood or urine sample. Patrol Sergeant Trey Warne of the Natrona County Sheriff's Department undertook those duties.

[¶7] Sergeant Warne went to Wyoming Medical Center, where he informed Stowe that he was there at the request of the trooper who was investigating her accident, and he read her an implied consent advice form. He advised her that she was under arrest for driving while intoxicated, and he asked whether she preferred to give a blood or a urine sample. She chose the latter.

[¶8] When the sergeant first encountered Stowe, she had been catheterized due to the possibility that she had suffered lower back and neck injuries. As explained by Tara Mackler, the registered nurse who inserted the catheter, it was used to keep Stowe from moving until treating physicians received the results of a CT scan. That is, it allowed her bladder to be drained without moving her until her care providers could determine the extent of her injuries.

[¶9] Consequently, when Nurse Mackler drew the urine samples for Sergeant Warne, she used a port that was built into the catheter. To ensure that she was drawing fresh urine for each of the two required samples, she clamped a hemostat onto the catheter between the port and the collection bag, sterilized the port, and screwed a syringe body into it. After drawing a sample, she transferred it to a sterile test tube contained in a Department of Health test kit. Mackler repeated that process approximately twenty-three minutes later at 5:33 a.m. Those samples were given to Trooper ...


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