Lexington police did not use a best practice in obtaining a blood sample from a suspect, but a judge on Thursday allowed that evidence to be introduced in the trial of a woman charged with drunken driving and manslaughter in the deaths of a Louisville detective and a University of Kentucky employee.
Jerry Wright. the defense attorney for Suzanne Whitlow, had sought to have the blood sample thrown out, but Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell ruled against the defense motion.
Whitlow, 27, of Lexington is accused of driving under the influence when she struck Louisville police detective Jason Schweitzer and UK employee Timothy Moore in October. Whitlow was driving outbound on South Upper when her vehicle struck Schweitzer and Moore, who were standing at South Upper and Bolivar streets. Whitlow had completed alcohol driver education classes for a 2014 DUI conviction and license suspension a few weeks earlier.
Schweitzer, 37, was in Lexington for a Fraternal Order of Police convention. Moore, 56, a third-shift employee in UK’s Heating and Cooling Division at UK’s Peterson Service Building on South Upper, was at work at the time of the accident.
Whitlow admitted drinking several “vodka and cranberry drinks” before she lost control of her Dodge, police said previously.
After establishing probable cause, police obtained a court order from a district judge directing Whitlow to have her blood drawn by UK Hospital medical staff in order to get a blood-alcohol level. Wright argued that, under state law, police should have obtained a different legal document allowing a search — a search warrant — before having UK Hospital medical staff draw the sample.
“Statute says you’ve got to have a search warrant,” Wright said.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Paco Villalobos said police acted “in the right way” to obtain the blood sample.
“You think they did it the best way?” Bunnell asked.
“I think what they did do was legal and they ... did get the blood in a constitutional way,” Villalobos said.
“I think the best practice for our police in the future, I think, is to follow the statute” to the letter, Bunnell said later in the hearing. “I think it’s best practice. That way, you don’t have a question.
“I do not find the failure to get a search warrant to be a sufficient flaw,” Bunnell added. “I do think best practice is to get a search warrant. I think that’s what the statute says.”