February 15, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Can police withdraw blood from DWI suspects without a warrant?
Article provided by Ellis & Ortega, LLC
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In early 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear a case regarding the constitutionality of law enforcement drawing blood from a drunken driving suspect without first obtaining a warrant. At the heart of the case is whether blood tests without a warrant violate the Fourth Amendment's protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
The history of the Supreme Court case
The case the Supreme Court will hear originated in Missouri. There, a law enforcement officer pulled a man over for speeding and upon confronting him, suspected he was intoxicated. The officer had the man step out of the car and put him through field sobriety tests, which he failed. At this point, the officer requested the man to take a breath test, but the driver refused. The officer took the driver to a medical clinic to have his blood drawn for a blood test, where the driver refused the test. The officer ordered the lab technician to draw the blood despite the driver's refusal.
The blood test revealed the man's blood alcohol level was over the legal limit and he was arrested. At his trial, the defense moved to bar the blood test results because the test was performed without the officer obtaining a warrant first. The trial judge agreed, despite the prosecution's assertion that waiting to obtain a warrant would have led to destruction of evidence.
The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision, but the state's supreme court upheld it, citing a 1966 United States Supreme Court decision that only allows officers to skip getting a warrant in an emergency situation, like a car wreck, when responding to the emergency leaves no time to obtain a warrant, which can take up to two hours.
Now, the case waits to be reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States in early 2013. Other state courts have heard similar cases and are split on the constitutionality of blood tests without warrants. Some states have ruled that the blood tests are legal since the time it takes to obtain a warrant could potentially destroy evidence, while others have ruled like the Missouri Supreme Court, deciding the blood tests do violate a suspect's constitutional rights.
How the case may affect Texas DWI suspects
The Supreme Court decision will likely have an impact on many individuals suspected of drunk driving in Texas. Currently, it is possible for law enforcement in the state to draw blood without obtaining a warrant first. For example, in Bexar County, the law requires law enforcement to perform blood tests after a driver refuses a blood test after a car accident or during certain holidays like New Years and the Fourth of July, but only after first obtaining a warrant.
If the Supreme Court decides that draw blood without first obtaining a warrant is legal, individuals suspect of DWI in Texas may fall victim to blood tests against their wills. Warrants serve as protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and allowing law enforcement to obtain evidence, in this case a suspect's blood alcohol concentration, without a warrant seems to approach a violation of these rights.
If you or a loved one has been suspected of a DWI, please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights.---
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