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United States v. Jackson

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

March 14, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CODY SWAN JACKSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Brian Morris United States District Court Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Defendant Cody Jackson (Jackson) is charged by Indictment with one count of involuntary manslaughter in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153(a) and 1112, and one count of attempted witness tampering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3). The charges arise from a single vehicle accident that occurred on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation between East Glacier, Montana and Browning, Montana on December 11, 2016. Blackfeet Law Enforcement Officer Robert Snyder requested that medical personnel obtain a sample of Jackson's blood after the accident under the State of Montana's implied consent statute, Mont. Code Ann. § 61-8-402.

         Jackson has moved to suppress the results of the blood toxicology report. Jackson argues that suppression is appropriate because Officer Snyder lacked probable cause to believe that he was driving the vehicle involved in the accident. Jackson argues that the absence of probable cause renders invalid Officer Snyder's use of Montana's implied consent law. The Government opposes the motion.

         The Court conducted a hearing on the motion on February 21, 2018. The Government presented testimony from nurse Maria Flores (Flores) and Officer Snyder. The Government also offered a number of photographs as exhibits. Jackson presented testimony from nurse Minerva Torres-Sierra (Torres-Sierra).

         BACKGROUND

         The Court makes the following factual findings based on the exhibits and testimony presented at the suppression hearing. The motor vehicle accident in question occurred in the early morning of December 11, 2016. A late model extended cab Chevrolet pick-up truck veered from Highway 2 over a steep embankment. The truck rolled. The truck came to rest on its top.

         The truck had three occupants at the time of the accident. A male passenger was partially ejected out a side window adjacent to the rear seat of the truck. He was found dead at the scene of the accident. Jackson and a passenger identified as C.C. suffered injuries in the accident, but were able to exit the truck. A medical doctor came upon the accident scene and transported Jackson and C.C. to the hospital in Browning.

         Officer Snyder learned of the accident at approximately 12:52 a.m. Officer Snyder arrived at the accident scene at approximately 1:12 a.m. Officer Snyder remained at the accident scene for approximately two hours while law enforcement officers processed the scene. Law enforcement officers took photographs of the accident scene and the interior of the truck. Officer Snyder observed black hair on the ceiling of the truck above the driver's seat. Officer Snyder also observed that the keys to the vehicle were not in the ignition.

         Officer Snyder proceeded to the hospital in Browning. Officer Snyder met with Jackson and C.C. Officer Snyder observed that Jackson and C.C. appeared to be intoxicated. Officer Snyder observed that Jackson's hair was black and that C.C.'s hair was not black. Officer Snyder found a set of keys in Jackson's coat pocket. The emblem on the keys showed that the keys belonged to a Chevrolet vehicle.

         Officer Snyder requested that Jackson provide a sample of his blood for the purpose of determining the presence of alcohol. Officer Snyder read an implied consent form to Jackson. Jackson did not respond when asked by Officer Snyder whether he would consent to a blood draw. Jackson continued to lay in bed with his eyes closed.

         Officer Snyder directed medical staff at the hospital to collect a blood sample from Jackson. Nurse Flores obtained a blood sample from Jackson at approximately 5:02 a.m. Nurse Flores testified that Jackson was conscious and orientated to person, place, time and situation when she obtained the blood sample. The blood sample was analyzed for the presence of alcohol. The toxicology report showed that alcohol was present in Jackson's blood.

         DISCUSSION

         Montana's implied consent law is set forth in Mont. Code Ann. § 61-8-402. The relevant provision in Montana's implied consent law for purposes of the present motion is Mont. Code Ann. § 61-8-402(2)(a)(iii)(B). Section 61-8-402(2)(a)(iii)(B) states that a peace officer may direct that a blood sample be obtained ...


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