January 10, 2019
from Charleston County Deadra L. Jefferson, Trial Court Judge
Larry B. Hyman Jr., Post-Conviction Relief Judge
Appellate Defenders Jennifer Ellis Roberts and David
Alexander, of Columbia, for Petitioner.
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Senior Assistant
Deputy Attorney General William M. Blitch Jr., of Columbia,
a belated appeal of Daniel Hamrick's conviction for
felony driving under the influence resulting in great bodily
injury. Hamrick argues the trial court erred in (1) denying
his motion to suppress test results from blood drawn without
a search warrant, (2) admitting the blood test results into
evidence despite a violation of the three-hour statutory time
limit for drawing blood, (3) permitting a police officer to
give opinion testimony on accident reconstruction, and (4)
excluding from evidence a video recording of an experiment
conducted by Hamrick's expert in accident reconstruction.
We find the trial court erred in admitting the officer's
opinion testimony. We reverse and remand to the court of
general sessions for a new trial.
Facts and Procedural History
3:20 a.m. on November 14, 2011, Daniel Hamrick struck Ahmed
Garland- a road construction worker-while driving on U.S.
Highway 17 in the town of Mount Pleasant. Garland suffered
permanent brain injuries as a result. The State contends
Hamrick struck Garland while Garland was stepping off of a
paving machine located behind a row of cones delineating the
construction zone from the designated lane of travel. Hamrick
concedes he struck Garland, but contends it happened in the
lane of travel.
five minutes of the incident, Officer Daniel Eckert arrived
at the scene and administered first aid to Garland. Emergency
medical service professionals arrived at the scene less than
ten minutes later, and Officer Eckert began interviewing
Hamrick and other witnesses. Several witnesses claimed to
smell alcohol on Hamrick's breath, and Hamrick admitted
he drank one beer earlier in the morning. Officer Eckert
asked Hamrick to perform field sobriety tests, but Hamrick
refused. At 3:40 a.m., Officer Eckert informed Hamrick he was
not free to leave. He instructed Hamrick to remain by the
front of Officer Eckert's car.
a.m., Officer Andrew Harris-the lead investigator-arrived.
Officer Harris interrogated Hamrick and instructed him to
perform sobriety tests. Hamrick performed the tests, which
indicated to Officer Harris that Hamrick was intoxicated. At
4:40 a.m., Officer Harris formally placed Hamrick under
arrest, handcuffed him, administered Miranda
warnings to him, and directed officers to transport Hamrick
to the Mount Pleasant police station for a breathalyzer test.
Hamrick arrived at the police station, the breathalyzer
machine malfunctioned. After the machine became operational,
Hamrick refused to take a breathalyzer test. Officers then
took Hamrick to East Cooper Hospital, where at 6:55 a.m.,
they told Hamrick he was required to provide a blood sample
pursuant to the mandatory blood testing provision of
subsection 56-5-2946(A) of the South Carolina Code (2018),
and the implied consent provision of subsection 56-5-2950(A)
of the South Carolina Code (2018). The officers did not seek
a search warrant before drawing Hamrick's blood.
Hamrick's blood alcohol concentration measured .113
to his 2013 trial, Hamrick filed a written motion to suppress
the results of his blood test. He argued the warrantless
search the police conducted in drawing his blood violated his
Fourth Amendment rights because no exigency existed, and
there was no other applicable exception to the warrant
requirement. He relied on Missouri v. McNeely, 569
U.S. 141, 133 S.Ct. 1552, 185 L.Ed.2d 696 (2013), decided six
months earlier, in which the Supreme Court of the United
States held "the natural metabolization of alcohol in
the bloodstream [does not] present a per se
exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth
Amendment's warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood
testing." 569 U.S. at 145, 133 S.Ct. at 1556, 185
L.Ed.2d at 702; see also 569 U.S. at 148, 133 S.Ct.
at 1558, 185 L.Ed.2d at 704 (restating that "a blood
sample . . . drawn from a defendant suspected of driving
while under the influence of alcohol" is a search under
the Fourth Amendment (citing and quoting Schmerber v.
California, 384 U.S. 757, 767, 86 S.Ct. 1826, 1834, 16
L.Ed.2d 908, 919 (1966))). The trial court conducted a
hearing and considered all of the applicable circumstances,
as it was required to do under Schmerber and
McNeely. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court
found the exigent circumstances exception excused the warrant
requirement on the unique facts presented, and denied the
motion to suppress. The court did not address whether the
implied consent provision of subsection 56-5-2950(A) excused
the warrant requirement.
alternative ground for excluding the blood test results from
trial, Hamrick argued his blood was not drawn within three
hours of Hamrick's arrest as mandated by subsection
56-5-2950(A), which states blood samples "must be
collected within three hours of the arrest." Hamrick
maintained he was under arrest by 3:40 a.m., when he refused
to perform field sobriety tests and Officer Eckert informed
him he was not free to leave. The trial court rejected this
argument and ruled Hamrick was not under arrest until Officer
Harris placed Hamrick in handcuffs and administered
Miranda warnings at 4:40 a.m.
trial, Officer Harris testified he documented the point of
impact inside the construction zone, as opposed to inside the
designated lane of travel. Woodrow Poplin, a mechanical and
civil engineer, testified as an expert witness for Hamrick.
Poplin testified Officer Harris's reported point of
impact was incorrect because Hamrick's car could not have
reached that point without knocking over the cones separating
the lane of travel from the construction zone, or without
hitting the paving machine. Poplin testified, in his opinion,
the collision occurred inside the designated lane of travel.
Hamrick offered into evidence a video of an experiment Poplin
conducted to determine whether it was possible for
Hamrick's car to hit Garland where Officer Harris
testified the collision occurred without also hitting the
cones or the paving machine. The trial court permitted Poplin
to testify about the experiment, but excluded the video from
jury found Hamrick guilty of felony driving under the
influence resulting in great bodily injury. The trial court
sentenced Hamrick to fifteen years in prison. Hamrick's
trial counsel failed to appeal, and Hamrick filed a
post-conviction relief application alleging counsel was
ineffective for not doing so. The post-conviction relief
court agreed, and granted Hamrick a belated direct appeal
pursuant to White v. State, 263 S.C. 110, 208 S.E.2d
35 (1974). As White requires, Hamrick filed a
petition for a writ of certiorari asking this Court to
consider the belated appeal. We transferred the petition to
the court of appeals pursuant to Rule 243(1) of the South
Carolina Appellate Court Rules. The court of appeals granted
certiorari to consider Hamrick's appeal. The court of
appeals then transferred the appeal to this Court pursuant to
Rules 203(d)(1)(A)(ii) and 204(a) of the South Carolina
Appellate Court Rules.
begin with the trial court's error in permitting Officer
Harris to give opinion testimony on the subject of accident
reconstruction. This error requires a new trial. We will then
address the admissibility of the video of Poplin's
experiment and Hamrick's challenges to the admissibility
of his blood test results, as those issues will necessarily
arise on remand.