BRIAN D. HIGGINS, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee
Submitted January 22, 2014
Case Closed April 17, 2014.
This decision has been designated as "Table of Decisions Without Published Opinions." in the Atlantic Reporter.
Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County. Cr. ID No. 1302007551.
Before HOLLAND, BERGER, and JACOBS, Justices.
Jack B. Jacobs, Justice
This 1st day of April 2014, upon consideration of the briefs of the parties and the record in this case, it appears to the Court that:
1. Defendant-below/appellant Brian D. Higgins (" Higgins" ) appeals from a felony conviction for driving while under the influence (" DUI" ), under 21 Del. C . § 4177(a) and (d)(3). Specifically, Higgins challenges the Superior Court's denial of his motion to suppress blood test results. Higgins claims that he did not voluntarily consent to having his blood drawn, and that this Court should require law enforcement officials to obtain written consent before drawing blood from suspects in DUI cases. We find no merit to Higgins' appeal and affirm.
2. Higgins was involved in a single car accident on September 3, 2012 in Newark, Delaware. The collision sheered a telephone pole in half, uprooted a small tree, and caused significant damage to Higgins' car. At approximately 4:20 p.m., Newark Police Officer Daniel Bystricky arrived at the scene to investigate the accident. Upon his arrival, Officer Bystricky observed that Higgins' clothing was " disheveled," Higgins was resisting the emergency medical crew's efforts to take him to the hospital, Higgins' eyes were bloodshot and glassy, and a " very faint" odor of alcohol emanated from him. Eventually, Higgins was taken to Christiana Hospital and Officer Bystricky arrived at the hospital sometime thereafter.
3. At Christiana, hospital personnel told Officer Bystricky that they would draw Higgins' blood (for a blood alcohol concentration test) only if Higgins signed a written consent form. Higgins indicated that he would not sign a consent form. Accordingly, Officer Bystricky called Omega Medical Center and requested an Omega phlebotomist come to Christiana Hospital to draw Higgins' blood. While waiting for the phlebotomist, Officer Bystricky possibly told Higgins that if he refused the blood draw, he would lose his driver's license for one year. Bystricky also admonished Higgins that " he was lucky that he hadn't hit a kid that day."  According to Bystricky's testimony, Higgins responded by saying " fine, I'll give blood."  Bystricky further testified that Higgins cooperated while the phlebotomist drew his blood. The blood sample test revealed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.20.
4. Higgins was arrested on February 26, 2013, and thereafter was indicted for felony DUI under 21 Del. C . § 4177 by a Superior Court grand jury. On May 6, 2013, Higgins moved to suppress all evidence gathered by the Newark Police, including Higgins' blood test results. After a hearing at which Officer Bystricky testified, the trial judge denied that motion on June 28, 2013, ruling that Higgins had voluntarily consented to having his blood drawn. On July 18, 2013, Higgins was found guilty on a stipulated trial record. He was sentenced that same day to two years in custody at Level V, suspended after 90 days for one year at Level III probation. Higgins timely appealed.
5. We review a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress, after an evidentiary hearing, for abuse of discretion. A trial judge's legal conclusions are reviewed de novo , and we will not disturb a trial ...