Grassi v. ColoradoAnnotate this Case
Petitioner Ronald Grassi was involved in a single-car accident early one September morning. He suffered serious injuries, and his passenger was killed. Paramedics transported petitioner to a local hospital for treatment, where he remained unconscious for several hours. At the hospital, a trooper (part of the investigation but who had not been at the scene of the accident) detected a strong odor of alcohol emanating from petitioner's mouth though he remained unconscious. The trooper ordered a blood draw. Prior to the blood draw, police knew that petitioner had been driving when it crashed, that no road conditions or other external factors appeared to have caused the crash, that petitioner's driving was consistent with that of an intoxicated driver, and that his breath smelled of alcohol. The blood draw revealed that petitioner's blood alcohol content (BAC) was well over the legal limit for driving under the influence. Petitioner was later charged with vehicular homicide, manslaughter and driving with an excessive BAC. Petitioner moved to suppress evidence of his BAC, arguing that the officer at the hospital who ordered the blood draw lacked probable cause to order blood from him while he lay unconscious in the hospital. The trial court denied the motion, finding that Colorado's express consent statute did not require police to possess probable cause in order to draw blood from an unconscious driver. After its review, the Supreme Court found that the fellow-officer rule imputed information that the police possess as a whole to individual officers who conduct searches if: (1) that officer acts pursuant to a coordinated investigation; and (2) police possess the information at the time of the search or arrest. Because the record of this case reflected those conditions, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment.