ATLANTA --- Lawyers for an Augusta man accused of causing his passenger to die in a car wreck asked the state's highest court to rule the results from a blood alcohol test inadmissible in the upcoming trial.
When Harley Snyder crashed in May 2004, John Grant was in the car but did not show signs of being injured at the time except for a cut on his face.
But less than two weeks later, Mr. Grant died from internal injuries, and now Mr. Snyder faces charges of vehicular homicide.
Brendan Fleming, who is representing Mr. Snyder, asked the Georgia Supreme Court to intervene before the case goes to trial.
He said Monday that police did not properly take Mr. Snyder's blood sample the night of the wreck, and that the test's results should be suppressed at the trial.
Mr. Fleming argued that under state law, police have to arrest a suspect before requesting a blood alcohol test or there must be serious injuries or a death at the crash to take the sample.
Mr. Snyder agreed to a blood alcohol test after authorities read him the state's implied consent warning, which states in part that if suspects refuse the alcohol test, they will have their driver's licenses suspended for at least a year.
Mr. Fleming said lawmakers specifically outlined several injuries, such as broken bones, that would constitute a serious injury at the scene. But because Mr. Grant did not have any visibly serious injuries that night, a blood test should not have been taken before Mr. Snyder was arrested, he said.
"Legislators could have said anyone with any injuries," he said. "The statute does not say that. The statue is very specific. They chose to draft it this way."
Augusta Assistant District Attorney Madonna Little pointed out that police had plenty of reasons for probable cause to further investigate Mr. Snyder.
After the wreck, a state trooper smelled alcohol on both men, and a portable breathalyzer used on Mr. Snyder registered positive, although those results are typically not admissible in court.
"Witnesses at the scene said the driver made no effort to stop at the stop sign when turning onto Gordon Highway, which is a busy road," Ms. Little also told the high court justices.
Mr. Snyder told authorities that he tried to stop, but his brakes failed.
Ms. Little said that state law regarding blood alcohol testing does not say the serious injury has to be apparent at the wreck and no Georgia cases have concluded the death or injury has to be known when police read the implied consent for the test.
She said that under Mr. Snyder's interpretation of the law, emergency responders would be under pressure to diagnosis accident victims in a very short period of time to determine if they have less obvious, internal injuries just to order blood alcohol tests.
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (678) 977-4601 or firstname.lastname@example.org.