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Judge Weighs Admissibility of Minnetrista Man's Blood Test

Prosecutors argued the degradation of alcohol in Jonathan Markle’s system justified a warrantless blood draw following a January accident that claimed the life of his daughter, Tabitha. Defense counters with recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion.

Attorneys representing a Minnetrista man charged with vehicular homicide in connection with the death of his infant daughter last winter argued in Hennepin County Court yesterday that a blood sample taken by sheriff deputies was obtained illegally and petitioned a judge to exclude the results from trial.

Jonathan Markle’s blood alcohol level was .13 two hours after the vehicle he was driving broke through thin ice on the western edge of Lake Minnetonka Jan. 18. Four members of the Markle family were in the vehicle at the time. Markle’s wife, Amanda, and another child made it to safety thanks in large part to quick-thinking first responders. 

Eight-month-old Tabitha, however, was trapped in a car seat for at least 15 minutes before rescue divers were able to free her. She died three days later at Children’s Hospital.

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According to a report by the Star Tribune, a deputy with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office testified Tuesday that policies and protocol dictated Markle’s consent was not needed in order to obtain a blood sample.

Prosecutors argued the degradation of alcohol in Markle’s system justified a warrantless blood draw, citing a pair of Minnesota Supreme Court decisions giving law enforcement authority to obtain blood samples of suspected drivers without a warrant and regardless of consent. 

Joe Friedberg, who has represented Markle since he turned himself into authorities back in February, pounced—arguing a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling makes clear a warrant should be obtained in almost all drunk driving cases.

In its April 17 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court—in a 5-4 decision—wrote, in part, that “We hold that in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.”

The Supreme Court’s full ruling can be read by clicking here.

More than two dozen states require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before drawing blood from a suspected drunk driver.

Judge Jay Quam did not rule Tuesday on the admissibility of Markle’s blood sample, but a decision could be delivered in the next few weeks. 

Markle’s trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 5 in Minneapolis.

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