Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler
APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No.
Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney, Lina
N. Alkamhawi, Government Services Center for
Schreyer Thomas, LLP, H. Michele Thomas, for
1} Defendant-appellant, Michelle Schuster, appeals a
decision of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas denying
her motion to suppress. For the reasons detailed below, we
affirm the decision of the trial court.
2} On April 22, 2015, electrical work was being
conducted near the intersection of Cox Road and Liberty Way
in West Chester Township, Butler County, Ohio. At
approximately 3:23 p.m., a motor vehicle operated by
appellant crossed multiple lanes of traffic and struck four
electrical workers before crashing into an electrical truck.
Appellant and the four electrical workers were transported to
a nearby hospital. One of the electrical workers died from
her injuries and the other three suffered serious physical
harm. While at the hospital, a law enforcement officer had a
registered nurse withdraw a blood sample from appellant.
Testing of appellant's blood indicated that at the time
of the accident she had alprazolam, or Xanax, and marijuana
in her system.
3} Appellant was indicted on one count of aggravated
vehicular homicide in violation of R.C. 2903.06(A)(1), a
felony of the second degree, one count of aggravated
vehicular homicide in violation of R.C. 2903.06(A)(2), a
felony of the third degree, three counts of aggravated
vehicular assault in violation of R.C. 2903.08(A)(1)(a),
felonies of the third degree, three counts of vehicular
assault in violation of R.C. 2903.08(A)(2)(b), felonies of
the fourth degree, and one count of operating a vehicle while
under the influence of a drug of abuse in violation of R.C.
4511.19(A)(1)(a), a misdemeanor of the first degree.
4} Appellant pled not guilty to the charges.
Appellant then moved to suppress, among other things, the
blood-test results on the basis that the blood sample had not
been taken voluntarily or in compliance with R.C. 4511.191 or
Ohio Adm.Code 3701-53-01 through 3701-53-10. A two-day hearing
was held on appellant's motion, at which time the state
presented testimony from three law enforcement officers
employed by the West Chester Township Police Department, the
nurse who withdrew appellant's blood sample, and two
forensic toxicologists who tested appellant's blood
5} Officer Jeff Newman testified that at the time of
the accident, he was working a traffic detail at the
intersection of Cox Road and Liberty Way. Newman had his back
towards Cox Road when he heard a "loud boom." He
turned and saw four electrical workers "moving in
different direction through the air, " one of the
electrical trucks "shaking and moving, " and the
black car that had struck the side of the electrical truck
spin around. Newman explained that although the black car had
come to a stop, its engine was "racing at a real high
speed" as if it was "being revved up by
6} Upon approaching the black car, Newman saw
appellant, the driver, slumped over "with her head off
to the side." Newman attempted to talk to appellant, but
she was incoherent and was fading "in and out of
consciousness." While trying to speak with appellant,
Newman noticed the smell of an alcoholic beverage coming from
appellant's vehicle. Newman did not place appellant under
arrest at this time.
7} Officer Steven Seitzman testified that he arrived
at the scene of the accident around 4:00 p.m. Upon his
arrival, he was advised that appellant and the injured
electrical workers had been transported to a nearby hospital.
He was also advised that there was "an odor of an
alcoholic beverage on the * * * at-fault driver."
8} When Seitzman first arrived at West Chester
Hospital's emergency room, the first thing he heard was
"screaming and yelling" coming from appellant's
room. According to Seitzman, the noise coming from appellant
was "just incoherent screaming just as - as loud as you
can imagine." Seitzman did not consider appellant's
screaming and yelling to be speaking as "she wasn't
speaking any sort of language [he] recognized."
9} After checking on the electrical workers injured
in the accident, Seitzman entered appellant's room and
was advised by a nurse that appellant had needle marks on her
hand. After observing appellant for a brief period of time,
Seitzman requested that another officer bring a urine and
blood collection kit to the hospital. Seitzman testified he
requested the kit "based on a few factors, "
including "the air of alcohol [that] was described to
[him] by the officer that was at the scene, " "the
yelling and screaming" coming from appellant, which was
"inconsistent with anybody else in the ER and highly
unusual behavior, " and the suspected needle marks on
10} Around 6:12 p.m., prior to appellant's blood
being taken, Seitzman read appellant a BMV 2255 form,
informing her of the consequences of refusing to submit to a
blood test. Appellant was not placed under arrest at this
time and she did not sign the form. Seitzman asked appellant
if she wanted to comply with the blood test, and she
responded with "incoherent yelling and screaming."
Believing that appellant was unable, or incapable, of
refusing to give consent, Seitzman opened the blood
collection kit and handed two collection tubes to nurse
Amanda Burton. Seitzman observed Burton open the tubes and
draw appellant's blood before both he and Burton
immediately sealed the tubes, signed the collected evidence,
and sealed the evidence inside the collection kit. Within 15
minutes of the blood sample being drawn, Seitzman left the
hospital with the sample and transported it to evidence-room
refrigerator at the police station. Seitzman explained that
the refrigerator is under the care and custody of the police
department and is kept locked.
11} Burton testified she was the emergency room
registered nurse who helped treat appellant on the day of the
accident. Burton testified appellant's words were
"slurred" and "not comprehensible."
According to Burton, appellant "never could answer any
questions appropriately." Burton described appellant as
"very combative and uncooperative, " and noted that
the hospital had to administer medication to calm her down.
Although Burton could not specifically recall the name of the
medication or medications provided to ...