S.D. justices uphold blood draw from fatal crash

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A law enforcement officer acted correctly when he chose to have blood drawn from a man to check its alcohol content after a fatal traffic crash without waiting to obtain a warrant, the South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled.

The justices upheld the convictions of Joshua David Vortherms for the two deaths and related charges in the July 1, 2017, collision between two vehicles on I-90 in Minnehaha County. The state’s high court publicly released the decision Thursday.

Justice Steven Jensen wrote the unanimous opinion supporting the decision of Circuit Judge Robin Houwman to allow the result of the blood draw as evidence. The BAC was .159. State law sets drunk driving at .08.

Justice Jensen said the officer, South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper Patrick Bumann, had to decide whether to wait for a warrant or proceed with a blood-alcohol test before surgery on Vortherms at a Sioux Falls hospital. The justice wrote:

“Bumann testified that he knew it may take more than fifteen minutes
to obtain a telephonic warrant because the accident occurred on an early weekend
morning. Bumann also testified about the logistical difficulty of finding another
officer to help obtain a search warrant during an ongoing investigation. He
explained that he would have to prepare a probable cause narrative for the warrant
or convey the probable cause information to another officer. Then the other officer
would need to drive to the hospital to serve the warrant. Bumann testified that it
was unclear how long surgery would delay a blood draw, or if surgery would
compromise the reliability of the BAC result

The Supreme Court declined to review Bumann’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

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