Many persons charged in Tennessee with the crime of Drunk Driving (DUI/DWI) may have a new defense in their arsenal. On April 17, 2013 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the natural metabolization of alcohol in the bloodstream does not present a per se [automatic] exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s search warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood testing in all drunk-driving cases. Instead, the court determined that exigency in this context must be determined on a case-by-case basis dependent on the totality of the circumstances. See Missouri v. McNeely (Docket No. 11-1425).
So what does this mean for Tennessee DUI defendants?
First, a ruling by the US Supreme Court establishes minimum privacy rights guaranteed by our federal Constitution. Accordingly, Tennessee Courts are required to abide by this decision.
Second, if a person suspected of a DUI in Tennessee elects not to consent to the arresting officer’s request for a blood sample, it is likely that the officer will need to obtain a search warrant in order to proceed with a blood draw over the suspect’s objection. If a blood sample is obtained without a search warrant in spite of the suspect’s objection, and without a justification of urgency based upon the facts of the case, the blood test results may be determined by the court to be inadmissible as evidence against the suspect.
The legal analysis to be applied in each case can be complicated. It is therefore important for someone charged with the offense of DUI to hire a lawyer familiar with this issue. I am proud to state that in the McNeely opinion, the concurring and dissenting opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts referred to the legal text, Drunk Driving Defense, in a footnote. As regular readers of this blog know, this text is co-authored by Lawrence Taylor (California DUI attorney) and myself – both regular contributors to this blog. Should you find yourself in need of a Tennessee attorney, the DUI defense lawyers at Oberman & Rice are ready to assist you.