by April Scheinoha
A Pennington County District Court judge has ruled the results of a warrantless blood draw are inadmissible in a criminal vehicular homicide case. However, Judge Kurt Marben ruled that statements the defendant made to a police officer are admissible.
Scott Wayne Srnsky, 41, Thief River Falls, faces a felony charge of criminal vehicular homicide for his alleged role in the crash that killed his roommate May 26. He remains incarcerated at the Pennington County Jail.
As a result of Marben’s ruling, the Pennington County Attorney’s Office has filed an amended complaint in Srnsky’s case. Srnsky faces the same charge and maximum penalties (10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine). However, the amended complaint alleges that he drove in a grossly negligent manner, which led to the death of Jacob James Kasprowicz, 29, Warren.
At the time of the accident, Srnsky was driving a 2000 Chevy Silverado westbound on 190th Street Northeast, a couple of miles northwest of the city of Thief River Falls. His pickup truck then crossed the centerline and struck Kasprowicz’s eastbound 1999 Pontiac Grand Am head-on. The vehicles then caught fire. Kasprowicz was pronounced dead at the scene. Srnsky was injured in the crash. A motorist and a sheriff’s deputy pulled him away from his engulfed vehicle.
Srnsky entered a not guilty plea to the amended charge Monday, Feb. 8. An omnibus hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 8.
The amended complaint noted the accident occurred in ideal road conditions on the recently resurfaced roadway. It alleges Srnsky sped up from 62 to 68 mph two seconds before the airbags deployed in his pickup truck. The speed limit is 55 mph on 190th Street Northeast. Srnsky allegedly briefly applied his brakes for five seconds before the crash. He then again pushed the gas pedal. A state trooper found that Srnsky’s westbound pickup truck was completely in the eastbound lane. He also determined that Srnsky had enough time to avoid the crash. The trooper noted the evidence led him to believe Srnsky was playing chicken with Kasprowicz. The earlier complaint alleged that Srnsky used methamphetamine prior to the crash.
Marben’s ruling suppresses evidence gathered during the warrantless blood draw before Srnsky was airlifted to Sanford Hospital in Fargo, N.D. Meth had been detected in that blood sample. Marben noted that there was a compelling need for a Minnesota state trooper to obtain the blood sample and the trooper had no time to obtain a warrant for the draw. However, he ruled that the trooper had no probable cause to believe that Srnsky was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He wrote that the trooper had no more reason to believe other factors led to the crash, including mechanical failure or a medical emergency.
Marben also suppressed Srnsky’s medical records from May 26. A search warrant had been executed for those records, but he found there was an insufficient basis for the warrant. He wrote there was no probable cause. Marben noted the warrant failed to refer to a conversation between the trooper and a doctor about Srnsky saying he used alcohol before the crash.
Marben also ruled on the admissibility of statements Srnsky allegedly made to a Grand Forks, N.D., police officer regarding the accident. The statements were recorded by the officer’s body camera. At that time, Srnsky admitted playing chicken with Kasprowicz. The officer had stopped Srnsky for expired license tabs a little more than a month after the accident. Marben wrote that the officer didn’t know about the accident and the possibility of criminal charges. Marben noted that Srnsky mentioned the accident multiple times as to why he was injured and needed help while entering the squad car. Marben found the officer wasn’t required to provide a Miranda warning in that instance.