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State v. Moore

Court of Appeals of Utah

September 26, 2019

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Luke Allen Moore, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Vernice S. Trease No. 20160931

          Debra M. Nelson and E. Rich Hawkes, Attorneys for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Lindsey Wheeler, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges David N. Mortensen and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.

          OPINION

          HAGEN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Luke Allen Moore appeals his conviction for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol/Drugs (DUI), arguing that the district court abused its discretion by admitting blood toxicology evidence where the State did not present direct evidence of how his blood samples were handled between the time the crime lab received the samples and when they were tested. Moore contends that the absence of this evidence created a gap in the chain of custody that rendered the blood toxicology evidence inadmissible for lack of authentication. We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the toxicology report because the State presented sufficient evidence that the tested blood samples were in substantially the same condition as when they were collected and Moore failed to rebut the presumption that the State properly handled the blood samples once they were delivered to the crime lab. And, in any event, there was no evidence to suggest that potential mishandling would have substantially altered the evidence. Accordingly, we affirm Moore's DUI conviction.

         ¶2 Moore also contends that the district court improperly sentenced him for a class C misdemeanor, rather than an infraction, for Failure to Stay in One Lane. The State concedes this point, and we therefore vacate and remand to the district court with instructions to enter Moore's conviction for Failure to Stay in One Lane as an infraction and adjust the sentence accordingly.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         ¶3 In the early morning of August 14, 2014, an officer stopped Moore for driving with a broken brake light and failing to stay in the proper lane. After noticing multiple signs of intoxication and administering a series of field sobriety tests, the officer arrested Moore for driving under the influence. Following Moore's arrest, the officer obtained a search warrant to get a sample of Moore's blood for a toxicology test.

         ¶4 A certified phlebotomist carried out the warrant and drew Moore's blood. The phlebotomist collected Moore's blood in two vials, each containing preservatives to prevent degradation of the samples. Both vials were labeled with a sticker that provided Moore's name, his date of birth, the case report number, the date and time of the blood draw, and the phlebotomist's initials. To protect the integrity of the blood samples against tampering, the phlebotomist placed tamper-resistant blue tape over the top of each vial and initialed the tape. As an additional protection against tampering, the phlebotomist placed the vials into an envelope, sealed the envelope with clear tape, and initialed that tape. Finally, the phlebotomist placed the envelope in a locked evidence refrigerator and filled out a chain of evidence form for the blood samples.

         ¶5 About seven hours after the phlebotomist placed the blood samples in the evidence refrigerator, an evidence technician filled out the toxicology request form, retrieved the vials of Moore's blood, and took them to the Utah Public Health Laboratories (the crime lab). After verification that the samples were properly labeled and that the tamper-resistant tape was intact, the evidence technician turned the samples over to a crime lab technician and received a receipt for the samples. The identity of the crime lab technician was not recorded.

         ¶6 Four days later, a toxicologist retrieved the samples from the crime lab refrigerator and tested Moore's blood to determine its alcohol content. The resulting toxicology report revealed that Moore's blood alcohol content was .16, twice the then-legal limit for driving in Utah. See Utah Code Ann. § 41-6a-502(1)(a) (LexisNexis 2014). At trial, the toxicologist testified that it was the crime lab's regular procedure to refrigerate any blood samples shortly after they are received. She further testified that the preservatives in the vials would prevent unrefrigerated blood from degrading for several days, and that any blood degradation would likely lower its alcohol content.

         ¶7 A jury convicted Moore of DUI, Failure to Stay in One Lane, and other charges not relevant to this appeal. He now appeals his DUI conviction and the ...


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