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California NewsUSA

Driver in fatal Escondido DUI crash may withdraw guilty plea due to warrantless blood draw

A man who was sentenced to state prison for a 2018 Escondido crash that killed two people will be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because his blood was illegally drawn without a warrant while he was unconscious or unconscious, an appeals commission ruled Friday.

Francisco Andres Alvarez, 32, pleaded guilty to charges of drunken driving manslaughter and drunken driving causing injury for the March 25, 2018, crash that killed Brandon Contreras and Ana Lira, both 19 years old.

Prosecutors alleged that a blood test revealed there was alcohol, marijuana and cocaine in Alvarez’s system at the time of the crash.

Police said Alvarez ran a red light and struck the victims’ Mustang, killing Contreras and Lira, and seriously injuring a minor boy who was in the victims’ vehicle.

After pleading guilty, Alvaraz was sentenced to nearly eight years in state prison last year, but he was allowed to remain out of custody while appealing a judge’s ruling allowing the use of the blood test results as proof.

More than a year after the crash, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that authorities can draw blood from unconscious people suspected of driving under the influence — but only in “urgent circumstances,” such as when evidence may be lost or threatened. destroy.

A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal concluded that those circumstances did not exist in Alvarez’s case.

According to the appeals panel’s written opinion, Alvarez was taken to the hospital after the crash and became unresponsive about 45 minutes after speaking with a police officer.

The officer then called a phlebotomist, who drew Alvarez’s blood about two and a half hours after the accident.

The officer who obtained the blood test stated that “obtaining the warrant would have created substantial delays, primarily because he was the only officer at the hospital, did not have the appropriate documentation and that other officers were still investigating the scene,” according to the committee’s opinion.

The officer also testified that when the warrant materials arrived, he believed Alvarez might be taken to another part of the hospital, preventing him from taking the blood sample.

The justices wrote that obtaining a warrant would not have distracted the investigation. They also wrote that Alvarez became unconscious about 45 minutes after the officer began talking to him at the hospital, unlike other cases in which the alleged DUI driver was unconscious at the time of the crash.

The committee’s opinion orders that Alvarez’s motion to suppress the blood test results be granted and that he be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.

Alvarez has since been arrested and charged in a new drunk driving case, in which prosecutors say he drove drunk in July. He was indicted on two new counts of drunken driving in August and is currently jailed without bail in the case.

California Daily Newspapers

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