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Warrantless Blood Draws Are Presumptively Unconstitutional Absent Consent

SUPREME COURT HOLDS WARRANTLESS BLOOD DRAWS IN DUI CASES MAY VIOLATE FOURTH AMENDMENT

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has issued a major decision in Missouri v. McNeely (Docket No. 11-1425) concerning the collection of blood evidence in drunk driving cases.

The following issue was presented to the high Court: 

“Whether a law enforcement officer may obtain a nonconsensual and warrantless blood sample from a drunk driver under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth  Amendment warrant requirement based upon the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream?”

Here is what the Court declared:

“We hold that in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.”

Thus, blood-draws done without the arrestee’s express consent are presumptively unconstitutional absent a warrant.  The presumption may be rebutted where it is demonstrated by the California prosecutors that the totality of the circumstances reasonably necessitated the drawing of blood before obtaining a warrant.

Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion declared, in part, that: “… States and other governmental entities which enforce the driving laws can adopt rules, procedures, and protocols that meet the reasonableness requirements of the Fourth Amendment and give helpful guidance to law enforcement officials. And this Court, in due course, may find it appropriate and necessary to consider a case permitting it to provide more guidance than it undertakes to give today. 

“As the opinion of the Court is correct to note, the instant case, by reason of the way in which it was presented and decided in the state courts, does not provide a framework where it is prudent to hold any more than that always dispensing with a warrant for a blood test when a driver is arrested for being under the influence of alcohol is inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment.”

California’s implied consent law does not trump this decision.  Although a motorist may still get his (or her) license suspended for withdrawing consent and refusing to submit to chemical testing, the police may not normally coerce or forcibly take blood from a DUI suspect without a warrant.

If you were recently arrested in the Bay Area and charged with driving under the influence, contact Board Certified DUI defense lawyer Paul Burglin.   

 

About Paul Burglin

Paul Burglin
Paul Burglin practices DUI defense in the San Francisco Bay Area including the Napa/Sonoma wine country. He has been specializing in DUI defense for more 35 years After graduating from U.C. Berkeley in 1980, Mr. Burglin received his law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law in Washington. He is Board Certified in DUI Defense (as approved by the American Bar Association) and co-authors the two-volume treatise, "California Drunk Driving Law." He is past Dean of the National College of DUI Defense (www.NCDD.com) and is Editor-in-Chief of its case law update and newsletter. He is one of only a select few of DUI defense attorneys in the United States to have attended the University of Indiana’s Borkenstein Course on chemical testing and scientific protocols offered to prosecution experts, and he is a certified graduate of that program. He has been selected to the 2021 Northern California Super Lawyers list and is A-V rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

If you would like to contact the author, please visit: http://www.burglin.com


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