Test results to stay in SD manslaughter trial
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — A judge has denied a request by a Sioux Falls woman to keep blood-alcohol test results out of her second trial on a manslaughter charge.
The test results show Tammy Kvasnicka's blood alcohol level was almost three times the legal limit to drive at the time of a fatal crash in July 2010. Lawyers for Kvasnicka, 31, unsuccessfully argued Thursday that the test results were collected through an unconstitutional procedure.
Kvasnicka was convicted and sentenced two years ago to serve 60 years in prison for the crash in which authorities say she drove the wrong way on Interstate 229 in Sioux Falls while drunk and hit an oncoming car, killing Michael Xayavong, 27.
The state Supreme Court overturned her conviction this past March, saying it was improper for a police officer who testified during her trial to compare the force of the crash to more than 900 handguns being fired at once. Kvasnicka is set for a second trial starting Aug. 20.
Defense attorneys said investigators who collected Kvasnicka's blood after the crash should have had a warrant. They cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in March that police must try to obtain a search warrant from a judge before ordering blood tests for drunken driving suspects.
Some defense lawyers have argued that the decision ought to overturn South Dakota's implied consent law, which allows officers to take blood from drivers suspected of drunken driving without asking for permission from the suspect or seeking a warrant. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley disagrees but has said he expects the issue to eventually reach the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Two judges in the state have ruled that warrantless blood draws taken after the ruling were constitutional, while one ruled that a draw was not, according to the Argus Leader newspaper. Several others have said blood draws taken before the decision should stand on the principle of "good faith," meaning the officers acted within the scope of accepted law.
Judge Robin Houwman sided with prosecutors in the Kvasnicka case on Thursday. They argued not only that the Highway Patrol trooper who ordered her blood draw had acted in good faith, but that Kvasnicka had to submit to a blood test because she was on parole at the time.