Judge: Blood alcohol test can be used in case from fatal Telford crash

Becky Campbell • Nov 15, 2013 at 10:25 AM

When motorists get behind the wheel of a vehicle in Tennessee, they have given consent for a blood test if they’re suspected of driving under the influence, a judge ruled Thursday in a vehicular homicide case.

Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp made the ruling on a motion to have a blood sample tossed out in a case against Brandon Lee Pickering, 123 Ferd Henley Road. He was charged with vehicular homicide after a May 10, 2012, wreck that killed his fiancée, Britanny Hankal.

Pickering submitted to a blood alcohol test after Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Appleba read a state implied consent form and told Pickering if he refused the test his license could be suspended for one year. Both testified during an October hearing about the chain of events leading up to the blood draw.

Pickering testified that he agreed to the blood draw for two reasons — Appleba told him it was mandatory and that he didn’t want to lose his license for a year. Appleba testified that if Pickering had refused the test, it would have been taken anyway under the circumstances of the wreck and Hankal’s resulting death.

Cupp delayed a decision on the motion so he could review case law on the issue. He said Thursday he relied on two published cases to make his decision. One of those cases says when a person drives a vehicle in Tennessee, the driver gives consent to being tested for drugs or alcohol use, he said.

“The short of it is, the minute Mr. Pickering chose to drive, he gave consent,” Cupp said.

The judge said it didn’t matter why Pickering said he gave verbal consent, because the consent was given as soon as he drove the car that night.

Pickering’s blood-alcohol content was 0.08 several hours after the May 10 wreck that killed Hankal. According to a document filed by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Pickering said he drank two 40-ounce beers between 8 the night before and 1 that morning. The report said he was driving too fast on Telford New Victory Road that night, lost control and hit a tree. Pickering and Hankal apparently had an argument prior to the crash, testimony at the preliminary hearing held last year said.

Pickering is free on $100,000 bond while his case is pending.

Cupp also said during Thursday’s hearing that the form law enforcement officers use to obtain consent for a blood test in DUI cases is misleading.

“You don’t have to use this document to take blood,” he said, adding that the form gives an explanation of the implied consent law, but isn’t necessary for officers to get the blood drawn.

After Cupp’s ruling on the motion, he set a January trial date for Pickering.

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