Search and Seizure – Exclusionary Rule – Independent-Source Doctrine
State v. Van Linn, 2022 WI 16 (filed 24 March 2022)
HOLDING: Evidence of a hospital’s diagnostic blood draw was admissible in an operating-while-intoxicated (OWI) case under the independent-source doctrine.
SUMMARY: Defendant Van Linn was involved in an automobile accident and was conveyed to a hospital. Hospital personnel performed a diagnostic workup, which included drawing Van Linn’s blood; the test revealed a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.226. A deputy sheriff later arrived at the hospital and, based on his investigation of the accident, arrested the defendant for fifth-offense OWI. At the time of the arrest, the deputy was unaware of the hospital’s blood draw. The officer asked the defendant to consent to a blood draw, and the defendant refused. Nevertheless, the deputy asked hospital personnel to draw a sample of the defendant’s blood, which showed a BAC of 0.205. No search warrant had been obtained for the sample drawn at the deputy’s request.
Van Linn moved to suppress the results of the second blood draw, arguing that it was conducted without a warrant and that no exceptions to the warrant requirement applied. The circuit court agreed and suppressed the results of the second blood draw.
Three months later, the state asked the circuit court to issue a subpoena to the hospital for Van Linn’s medical records, which included the results of the first (diagnostic) blood test. The affidavit in support of the subpoena referenced the second blood draw and its results. Van Linn moved to quash the subpoena, but the hospital turned over the treatment records before a hearing on the motion to quash was held. The circuit court eventually held a hearing on the motion to quash but concluded that the motion was moot because the records had already been turned over to the state.
Van Linn then filed a motion to suppress the results of the first blood test, arguing that those results should be suppressed under the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule because the state subpoenaed the hospital records only after it learned from the second, unlawful blood draw that Van Linn’s BAC was over the legal limit. The circuit court denied the motion on statutory grounds without addressing the constitutional issue. In an unpublished decision, the court of appeals affirmed; it held that the results of the first blood test were admissible under the independent-source doctrine.
In a majority opinion authored by Justice Dallet, the supreme court affirmed. It concluded that the results of the first blood test were admissible under the independent-source doctrine, which is an exception to the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule.
“The doctrine is an exception to the exclusionary rule in that it allows for the admissibility of evidence or information tainted by an illegal evidence-gathering activity when the State otherwise acquires the same information – or ‘rediscover[s]’ it – by lawful means ‘in a fashion untainted’ by that illegal activity. Subsequent lawful means, such as a subpoena, are ‘untainted’ when the State can show that the illegal conduct neither ‘affected’ the circuit court’s decision to approve its subpoena request nor ‘prompted’ the State’s decision to seek a subpoena in the first place. The former question turns on ‘whether the [subpoena’s supporting affidavit] contain[s] sufficient evidence of probable cause without the references to the tainted evidence’” (¶ 12) (citations omitted).
In this case, Van Linn conceded that although the supporting affidavit referenced his BAC as discovered by the second, unlawful blood draw, the affidavit established probable cause for the subpoena without that reference. Therefore, the supreme court focused its analysis on the question whether the state’s decision to seek the subpoena was prompted by what it learned from the second, unlawful blood draw (see id.).
The court concluded that the state had ample reason, based on evidence gathered during the deputy’s investigation and apart from what it learned from the second, unlawful blood draw, to subpoena Van Linn’s medical records for evidence of OWI and that the state’s decision to subpoena the medical records was not prompted by what it learned from the second blood draw (see ¶ 15). It is true that the state did not subpoena the hospital records until after the circuit court suppressed the results of the second, unlawful blood draw.
Despite the timing of the state’s subpoena, the court held that suppression of the first blood test was not justified for two reasons. First, the state did not exploit the deputy’s unlawful conduct because it had reasonable grounds to suspect Van Linn of OWI before any blood tests were done; moreover, the results of the first blood test were untainted by the deputy’s unlawful conduct because the hospital drew the blood for its own diagnostic purposes (see ¶ 17).
Second, suppressing the results of the first blood test would not further the purpose of the exclusionary rule, which is to deter police misconduct. The circuit court’s suppression of the warrantless blood draw remedied the police misconduct in this case. Suppressing results of the first (diagnostic) blood test would have no further deterrent effect because the test involved no police conduct at all (see ¶ 18).
In sum, the majority concluded that “the results of the hospital’s blood test are admissible under the independent-source doctrine. The State’s decision to subpoena the hospital for Van Linn’s medical records was not prompted by the deputy’s unlawful conduct, because the State had reasonable grounds to suspect Van Linn of OWI prior to the deputy’s warrantless blood draw. The fact that the State subpoenaed those records only after the circuit court suppressed the deputy’s unlawful blood draw does not change the independent nature of the State’s suspicions that Van Linn’s BAC was over the legal limit. Furthermore, the evidence discovered through the State’s subpoena – the hospital’s diagnostic blood test – is untainted by the deputy’s unlawful conduct, thus suppressing it would not serve the exclusionary rule’s purpose” (¶ 19).
Justice A.W. Bradley filed a dissenting opinion.
Discrimination – Felons – Domestic Violence
Cree Inc. v. LIRC, 2022 WI 15 (filed 10 March 2022)
HOLDING: A company’s decision not to hire an individual convicted of multiple acts of “domestic violence” did not violate employment discrimination statutes.
Prof. Daniel D. Blinka, U.W. 1978, is a professor of law at Marquette University Law School, Milwaukee.
Prof. Thomas J. Hammer, Marquette 1975, is a law professor and Director of Clinical Education at Marquette University Law School, Milwaukee.
SUMMARY: Palmer was convicted of multiple crimes involving domestic abuse, including several felonies. He served time in prison, where he received a certification in mechanical design through an employment program. Cree Inc. offered Palmer a job designing lighting systems, subject to a background check. It rescinded the job offer after reviewing the details of Palmer’s criminal record. Palmer then filed this action for employment discrimination, alleging that his prior record was unrelated to the job he sought. An administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled in the employer’s favor, the Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) reversed the ALJ, and a circuit court reversed LIRC. In a published decision, the court of appeals reversed the circuit court. See 2021 WI App 4.
The supreme court reversed the court of appeals in a majority opinion authored by Justice Karofsky. Wisconsin law generally prohibits discriminating against job applicants and employees on the basis of criminal convictions. An exception states that it is not discrimination to refuse to employ a person on the basis of a criminal conviction if the circumstances of the convicted offense substantially relate to the circumstances of the job. See Wis. Stat. § 111.335(3)(a)1. This is termed the “substantial-relationship test” (¶ 14). A conviction for domestic violence crimes is treated like any other conviction (see ¶ 25).
The court examined the statute’s plain language as well as three earlier opinions construing it. It also closely examined the defendant’s criminal record in light of the job he sought. Palmer’s prior record pointed to “willingness to use extreme violence” and to disregard others’ safety (¶¶ 31-34). “Nothing in this opinion condemns all domestic violence offenders to a life of unemployment. But in this case, [the employer] sufficiently demonstrates that requiring it to employ Palmer would force it to carry too much risk relating to his recent criminal behavior” (¶ 40).
Justice Dallet dissented, joined by Justice A.W. Bradley and Justice Hagedorn. They contended that the majority erred by relying on inferences of bad character and propensity to act in conformity with the character traits rather than on the “context-specific” analysis compelled by the language of Wis. Stat. section 111.335(3)(a)1. (¶ 42). Exceptions to the nondiscrimination mandate are to be narrowly construed. Unless the employer can show that a person’s prior record is “closely tethered” to the particular job, discrimination is forbidden (¶ 45). “Followed to its logical end, an analysis rooted in generic ‘character traits’ obliterates the express policy of the Fair Employment Act” (¶ 48).