BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge has thrown out a blood sample in the manslaughter case against Praneeth Manubolu of New Jersey. Manubolu was charged with three counts of manslaughter in a crash that killed three passengers in Maine’s Acadia National Park on August 31, 2019.
Manubolu argued the state didn’t have the right to test his blood because the crash took place on federal land.
On Monday, a federal judge deemed the blood sample unconstitutional and said, “because the Court further finds that there were no exigent circumstances and the good-faith exception does not apply to the officer’s conduct, the Court grants the motion and suppresses the blood draw.”
Court documents alleged Manubolu had been drinking before getting behind the wheel of the car with three other people. According to court documents, while at the scene of the crash Manubolu told officers he had two shots of whiskey at dinner with his friends. During the conversation with officers, police noticed alcohol on his breath and that his eyes were bloodshot.
Read the federal ruling here:
The crash took place in a national park, so Manubolu is charged in federal court. Documents at the time of the arrest showed Manubolu's blood was drawn at Mount Desert Island Hospital even though he did not consent and a search warrant had not yet been issued. Maine law says blood can be drawn from the driver involved in any crash where serious bodily injuries occur.
The officer testified he had probable cause to believe that Manubolu had operated his vehicle under the influence of alcohol. He also said it wasn’t clear at the time whether the case would be a federal or state prosecution.
Court documents show Manubolu was at first hesitant to and then said he didn’t want to give a blood sample, but the officer advised him it was obligated under the law.
Court documents do not make clear what the result of the blood test was, but defense attorney Walter McKee filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Bangor because, "Manubolu's blood never should have been forcibly taken from him, and certainly not by a person who had no authority to do so," McKee wrote in the motion.
“The Court concludes that any reliance by Officer Hardy or Ranger Dominy on Cormier or section 2522 in drawing Mr. Manubolu’s blood was objectively unreasonable and that the purposes of the exclusionary rule are served by excluding the results of the ensuing blood draw,” the judge said in the ruling on Monday.
“The Court concludes that, based on the factual record, the Government has not carried its burden to demonstrate that this was a ‘drunk-driving investigation where police officers [could not] reasonably obtain a warrant before a blood sample [could] be drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search . . ..’ McNeely, 569 U.S. at 152. The Court holds that the totality of the circumstances do not support a finding that exigent circumstances existed in this case justifying the warrantless blood draw.”
The three passengers who died were Lenny Fuchs, 36, Laura Leong, 30 and Zeeshan Mohammed, 27, all of New York City. Manubolu suffered non-life threatening injuries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.