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Appeals court upholds meth-induced crash conviction that killed Minnesota woman

Adam Blaine Davis

KARLSTAD, Minn. — A Minnesota Appeals Court upheld this week the conviction of a Kittson County man whom police said was on meth during a fatal car crash more than two years ago.

Adam Blaine Davis, 40, is serving 6¼ years in prison after he pleaded guilty Oct. 27, 2015, in Marshall County District Court to felony criminal vehicular homicide in the 2014 death of 61-year-old Barbara Olsen of Viking, Minn. Davis entered a Lothenbach plea, which allows defendants the opportunity to appeal.

On the night of Sept. 18, 2014, Olsen was southbound on U.S. Highway 59 south of Karlstad, Minn., when Davis' vehicle crossed the centerline and struck her car head on, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. Olsen was taken to a hospital but died shortly later.

A state trooper said in reports he could not find any skid marks from Davis' vehicle that would have occurred before impact. Davis was seriously injured in the crash and had to be taken to Sanford Health in Thief River Falls.

Chemical blood test samples admitted in court testimony revealed the presence of amphetamine, methamphetamine and morphine in Davis' system. Blood was drawn from Davis' body after investigators and paramedics said they smelled alcohol on his breath. One officer said he could smell an odor of alcohol coming from Davis' hospital room just by standing 8 feet away from the room.

Davis argued the samples should not have been admitted in court because officers did not obtain a warrant or ask for permission to draw his blood. He said the blood draw violated his Fourth Amendment rights and asked the appeals court to overturn the conviction.

Troopers said they never asked for consent because they didn't want to interfere with medical staff. Troopers also argued in court documents Davis was going to be airlifted to another hospital and there was not enough time to obtain a warrant.

Marshall County Judge Anne Rasmusson allowed the blood samples in court, stating there was probable cause to believe Davis had committed criminal vehicular homicide.

The appeals court agreed, stating an officer doesn't need to observe "any outward (indication) of intoxication" but does need probable cause "to believe the defendant has committed a crime and probable cause to believe that the administration of a blood-alcohol test will result in the discovery of evidence relevant in the prosecution of that crime."

"While chemical analysis of appellant's blood revealed the presence of drugs, but no alcohol, the facts establish that there was probable cause to believe appellant had committed a crime at the time his blood was drawn," the court stated in its opinion released Monday.

The court also ruled there was "exigent circumstances" that came into play. A blood test should be taken within two hours of a crash to determine if a person was driving drunk, according to court documents. Since the request to draw blood from Davis happend 75 minutes after the crash and he likely was being airlifted shortly afterward, "time was of the essence" to "ensure reliability and admissibility of any alcohol-concentration evidence," the opinion stated.

"Any additional delay could have prevented law enforcement from getting a sample of appellant's blood," the opinion stated. "Further, appellant was being transferred to a hospital in a different state, and he would be unavailable for a blood draw."

Davis originally faced two felony criminal vehicular homicide charges, but one was dismissed before he was sentenced Jan. 7, 2016. He is set to be released from jail by April 2022.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers business and political stories. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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