State of Utah v. Chanzy Walker

2011 UT 53
Filed August 30, 2011

The Salt Lake City district court ruled there was not probable cause to support the warrant under which Ms. Chanzy’s blood was drawn, but did not grant her motion to suppress the evidence, relying on a possible exception to the warrant requirements. The Utah Supreme Court reversed on the alternate grounds that there was probable cause for the warrant.

While driving in Salt Lake City, Ms. Walker’s vehicle crossed the double yellow line, sideswiping a trailer and then running head on into another vehicle. The driver of the vehicle pulling the trailer was severely injured and the driver of the second vehicle was killed. Ms. Walker was airlifted to the hospital. While investigating the accident, detectives discovered that Ms. Walker’s driver license had been revoked for alcohol violation and that she was restricted to driving vehicles with an interlock ignition. At the hospital, a homicide detective visited Ms. Walker and asked her to submit to a blood draw. Ms. Walker refused. Suspecting that Ms. Walker had been driving under the influence, the detective prepared an affidavit in support of a warrant for a blood draw which contained the following information: “(1) Ms. Walker’s vehicle crossed the center line for an unknown reason; (2) after crossing the center line, Ms. Walker’s vehicle struck two other vehicles, causing serious injury to the driver of one of the vehicles and the death of the driver of the other vehicle; (3) when Detective Adamson asked Ms. Walker about the crash, she responded that she “didn’t remember anything”; (4) a check of the Utah Criminal Justice Information System revealed that Ms. Walker’s driver license had been revoked for alcohol and that she was restricted to an interlock device until February 27, 2010; and (5) at the time of the accident, Ms. Walker was driving a vehicle owned by her boss.”1 Based on these facts, the magistrate judge issued the warrant. Ms. Walker’s blood sample contained methamphetamine and amphetamine. She was charged with three felonies.

Ms. Walker’s criminal defense attorneys filed a motion to suppress the results of the blood test, arguing that the affidavit was insufficient to support probable cause for the warrant. The judge agreed with the criminal defense lawyers that the warrant lacked probable cause, but the court did not grant the motion to suppress because it ruled that the detective who conducted the search had relied on the warrant in good faith. Ms. Walker’s criminal defense attorneys appealed the ruling to the Utah Supreme Court, arguing that the Utah does not allow for a good faith exception to the warrant requirements.

The Utah Supreme Court did not reach the question of whether Utah has a good faith
exception to the warrant requirements. Instead, the court affirmed on alternate grounds, holding that the affidavit was sufficient to support probable cause to issue the warrant: (1) Ms. Walker had a history of driving under the influence and was restricted to driving vehicles with an interlock device. (2) Her vehicle crossed the double yellow line for an “unknown reason.” (3) She could not remember the details of the accident. (4) She was driving her boss’s car, which presumably did not have an interlock ignition.

Ms. Walker’s criminal defense lawyers argued that her crossing of the double of yellow line could have been caused by any number of causes other than driving under the influence, but the Utah Supreme Court rejected this argument. A magistrate judge is not required to eliminate all possible alternatives when issuing a warrant. Rather, the judge is expected to use common sense when reviewing the facts in the affidavit.

1. State v. Walker, 2011 UT 53, ¶ 14 (internal quotation marks omitted).

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