February 01, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- U.S. Supreme Court to decide legality of warrantless DUI blood draws
In Arizona it's against the law for police to conduct a warrantless blood draw on a DUI suspect without the suspect's consent. That could change when the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on the issue sometime this year because half of U.S. states follow a law similar to Arizona's and the other half allow warrantless blood draws without a DUI suspect's consent. Law enforcement is in favor of warrantless blood draws without consent because it allows police to gather blood alcohol levels in a timely manner. Those against the warrantless blood draws say the tactic is too invasive and violates the privacy rights concerning the body.
The driving wedge behind the issue is how much time can elapse before an accurate blood alcohol content measurement can be obtained from the suspect. The U.S. Supreme Court, when hearing the case, struggled to identify any clear rule to address the question. The last time the Supreme Court addressed blood draws concerning drinking and driving in 1966 the decision was driven by the facts of the case. The facts again may matter most.
The facts of the recent case involve a 25-year-old man stopped by police for speeding in Missouri. Officers suspected the man was drinking and driving because his breath smelled of alcohol, and he had blood shot eyes and slurred speech. Officers asked the man to complete a series of field sobriety tests, and the driver failed all four. The driver refused to take a breath test and was then taken to a hospital to consent to a blood test. The 25-year-old refused to consent to the blood test, and the officer ordered one over the man's objections. The blood test showed the driver's blood alcohol level was 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit, 25 minutes after he was pulled over. The state Supreme Court ruled there were no special circumstances to excuse the failure to obtain a warrant for the blood test.
The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the issue in 1966 said no warrant was required for a blood test without the consent of the driver after an accident in which the driver and another party were injured. In other words, police need to obtain a warrant before a blood draw without consent except in cases of emergency. In its analysis, the Court factored in the length of time the body processes alcohol, the amount of time to investigate an accident scene and get injured individuals to the hospital for treatment.
In the recent case, the sole question was whether the length of time the body processes alcohol is enough to justify a warrant for a blood draw. The arguments in the case focused on the length of time it would take to obtain a warrant and if the Court would be in favor of making the process more efficient. The arresting officer in the case claimed it would have taken 90 minutes to two hours before a warrant could be obtained. The justices were also told warrants can be obtained in as little as 15 to 20 minutes in some jurisdictions.
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and allows for warrants in cases with probable cause. Justice Scalia suggested there is only one practical reason why drinking and driving suspects would insist on a warrant--to delay the blood draw with the hope that additional time will provide for a lower and legal blood alcohol content. Justice Sotomayor, on the other hand, focused on the protections of the Fourth Amendment and asked whether it was reasonable to get rid of the Fourth Amendment's protections for a procedure as intrusive as a needle going into a person's body. According to a CNN article, she reminded the government's lawyer that a decision in favor of warrantless blood draws would change those protections.
If you face DUI charges in Arizona, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights.
Article provided by Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law
Visit us at http://www.criminalchargestucson.com/---
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