February 01, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- U.S. Supreme Court ruling may impact DWI law in New York
The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments on whether police should be allowed to force drinking and driving suspects to submit to warrantless blood tests without consent. While it is illegal for police in New York to force drivers suspected of DWI to submit to a warrantless blood draw without the driver's consent, half of the states favor the policy and a decision in favor of a warrantless blood test without consent would change New York law. During oral arguments, the Court took issue with the amount of time it takes to obtain a warrant and the image of an agent of the government forcibly inserting a needle into a suspect. At this point it seems the justices are leaning toward the protections of the Fourth Amendment.
The case that was heard by the Court came from Missouri in which a 25-year-old man was stopped for speeding. The driver failed four field sobriety tests and would not consent to a portable breath test or a breath test in jail. The man was transported to a hospital where a blood test was ordered by the arresting officer over the objection of the suspect and without a warrant. The results of the blood test showed the man's blood alcohol content was 0.15 percent, almost twice the legal limit, nearly 30 minutes after the stop.
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, and a governmental search into the privacy of an individual can become reasonable, with exceptions, through the use of a warrant. Law enforcement is generally in favor of the flexibility of such searches because as the body processes alcohol over time crucial evidence can be destroyed. Those who oppose bypassing warrant requirements say the policy is unconstitutional when exigent circumstances do not exist.
The last time the Court took up the issue of blood tests within the context of drinking and driving emergency circumstances were a part of its analysis. In 1966 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that no warrant was required to take the blood of a driver who caused an accident resulting in injury. The Court's analysis included the dissipation of alcohol over time but within the time constraints of investigating the cause of an accident and delivering emergency medical treatment.
Though the officer in the recent case did not cite the loss of time as a justification to bypass obtaining a warrant, the question in the case addresses whether the dissipation of blood alcohol is an emergency itself that allows for a warrantless search. The justices heard arguments on how long it takes to obtain a warrant and whether the amount of time required to obtain a warrant should create an exception. From a criminal defense perspective, the efficacy with which a warrant is issued may not be as important as ensuring the warrant is based on probable cause, is specific and is reviewed by a neutral magistrate to determine whether the search is a reasonable one into the suspected individual's realm of expected privacy.
According to a CNN article, Justice Scalia suggested there is only one practical reason why drinking and driving suspects prefer the requirement of a warrant--to delay the blood draw so that the body can further dissipate the alcohol. However, Justice Sotomayor asked, how reasonable it was to ignore the protections of the Fourth Amendment during a procedure as intrusive as a needle in the body. Sotomayor also warned that a ruling in favor of warrantless blood draws may have a drastic impact on Fourth Amendment protections outside of the context of drinking and driving.
If you face charges for drinking and driving in New York, contact an experienced DWI attorney who can help protect your rights.
Article provided by The Law Office of Scott M. Green
Visit us at http://www.scottgreenlawny.com/---
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