The Idaho Supreme Court ruled Friday that an Ada County prosecutor acted properly in ordering a blood sample be taken from a suspect who refused to submit to a breath test in 2013, even though authorities didn’t obtain a warrant.
Daniel J. Chernobieff, 39, eventually pleaded guilty to excessive DUI after Ada County Magistrate Daniel Steckel ruled the results of the blood test could be used against him. His conditional plea allowed him to appeal that ruling, and he argued before the Supreme Court that the evidence should have been suppressed.
On Sept. 11, 2013, Idaho State Police Cpl. Matthew Sly responded to a call for assistance from another officer who had pulled over Chernobieff at about 11 p.m. Sly reported smelling alcohol and noted that the Boise man’s eyes were “glassy and bloodshot” and that his speech was “slow and lethargic.”
He described Chernobieff as agitated and said the man had trouble answering questions. He asked the man to perform standard field sobriety tests, but Chernobieff refused. Chernobieff also refused to allow a breath test to be taken.
Sly contacted an on-call prosecutor for held in obtaining a warrant to take a blood sample. The prosecutor spent 10 minutes trying to contact an on-call magistrate, but could not reach the judge. The prosecutor then directed Sly to contact a phlebotomist and perform the blood draw, which showed a blood alcohol level of .226 percent, nearly three times higher than Idaho’s legal limit of .08 percent.
At trial, Chernobieff argued that the warrantless blood draw violated his rights under the U.S. and Idaho constitutions.
The Idaho Court of Appeals earlier affirmed Steckel’s decision allowing it as evidence, and the Supreme Court concurred.
Steckel had ruled that the prosecutor made a good-faith effort to reach a judge to obtain a warrant and appeared to “have done all he could to get a judge’s permission to take the blood in a timely fashion.” He also noted that the concentration of alcohol in blood dissipates over time, making it important to have the test administered as soon as possible.
Still, members of the Supreme Court found it troubling that in Idaho’s largest county, no backup system exists with an option to contact a second judge.
“The district court’s observation regarding the inability to contact the on-call magistrate, particularly in Ada County where there are a number of magistrate judges, does raise some concern,” outgoing Justice Jim Jones wrote in the six-page decision.
Chernobieff was sentenced to a year in jail, with all but 10 days suspended. His driver’s license was suspended for a year. He also served two years’ probation, which ended in June.