Defense wants blood evidence tossed in South Whidbey case

Admissibility of key evidence in a South Whidbey vehicular homicide case will be decided at a hearing Friday in Coupeville.

Langley defense attorney David Carman will argue in Island County Superior Court that the blood results for Michelle Nichols, a South Whidbey woman charged in the 2015 Valentine’s Day car crash that killed a Freeland man, should be tossed out as the result of a procedural error by state police.

“The State Patrol didn’t get a warrant and didn’t even try,” Carman said Monday.

Nichols is charged with one count of vehicular homicide under the “DUI prong” of the charge for the death of Tim Keil.

It’s the most serious and carries the longest potential sentence, from 78 to 102 months in prison under the standard sentencing range. She pleaded not guilty in September.

The car accident occurred on the evening of Feb. 14 on State Highway 525 near the intersection of Coles Road.

Nichols, then 46, was southbound when the van she was driving crossed the centerline and struck Keil, 61, who was traveling northbound in a passenger car.

Keil died at the scene and Nichols was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

It was at Harborview that Nichols’ blood was drawn by state troopers, but without her consent as she was unconscious.

Her blood alcohol content was allegedly .11 percent, which exceeds the legal state limit of .08 percent.

Friday’s hearing seeks to suppress those results on the grounds that the blood was taken without a warrant and the blood draw didn’t apply under what’s known as “exigent circumstances” — matters of timeliness where evidence can disappear or a judge can’t be reached.

Nichols’ blood was taken nearly three hours after the accident, when Nichols failed to wake to speak with the officer and after doctors had confirmed they had given her two units of blood, according to the state patrol’s referral to the prosecutor’s office.

Carman argues that there wasn’t enough evidence to get a search warrant, that police didn’t have what was needed to justify blood removal under exigent circumstances.