Plea deal ends case testing legality of DUI blood samples

VERO BEACH — Indian River County Circuit Court Judge David Morgan will not rule on the legality of the City of Vero Beach Police Department’s policy of taking blood samples from drivers who refuse to take a Breathalyzer test after the latest suspect accepted a plea deal Monday morning.

The judge was supposed to make a ruling on Defense Attorney Bobby Guttridge’s motion to suppress the blood evidence in the case against Tamara Ianuzzi last week. However, when notified that the defendant would be changing her plea, the judge stopped working on the motion’s ruling, he said in court. Ianuzzi entered a plea of no contest to both DUI and refusal of testing charges in exchange for having the marijuana and drug paraphernalia charges against her dropped.

The State Attorney’s Office told Judge Morgan that the two results of the police department’s blood draw showed Ianuzzi’s blood alcohol content to be 0.207 and  0.208 – more than double the legal limit of 0.08.

Guttridge said outside the courtroom that it was in his client’s best interest to settle the case rather than pursue the challenge of the police department’s policy to force drawing blood when drivers refuse to submit to breath tests.

“It’s moot,” the attorney said of his motion in Ianuzzi’s case. However, he said he plans to raise the issue every time he represents a client in a DUI case where the police department drew blood for testing.

“As much as I wanted to pursue” the challenge, Guttridge said, he had to do what was best for his client.

He added that even if Judge Morgan ruled in his client’s favor to suppress the blood evidence, it would not preclude the State Attorney’s Office from using other evidence — such as the results of the field sobriety exercises Ianuzzi performed — in the trial.

Guttridge expressed doubt that his defense would have been strong enough.

“You could imagine” the problems of going forward with the case, he said, referring to Ianuzzi’s blood alcohol level.

Guttridge said in court filings that he believed the city went beyond its authority when it obtained the search warrant because state law only allows such a seizure when suspects are unable to consent to a breath test due to serious injury. Ianuzzi had been arrested in November 2009 after an officer pulled her over for driving at night without her headlights on. The officer then suspected Ianuzzi of driving under the influence and had her perform field sobriety exercises, which she performed poorly, according to the arrest report.

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