Warrantless DUI Blood Draws are the Focus of a U.S. Supreme Court Case
Police officers forcing DUI suspects to submit to blood draw tests without a search warrant has been a highly contested issue in this Country. On January 9, 2012, that subject became the focal point of a case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Missouri v. McNeely, a Missouri state trooper stopped a man who was speeding and swerving his car. According to the state trooper, the driver was unsteady on his feet, had slurred speech, there was alcohol on the driver’s breath and his eyes were bloodshot. The driver failed several field sobriety tests and refused to submit to a breath test.
The state trooper proceeded to take the driver to the hospital for a blood test without obtaining a search warrant. The driver was handcuffed while a hospital technician drew blood from his body. The test measured the driver’s blood alcohol content as .154; the legal limit in Missouri is .08.
When the case was presented before the Missouri Supreme Court, the blood test results were thrown out. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that forcing the driver to undergo a DUI blood test without a warrant was a constitutional violation of the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. The court also stated that a warrantless DUI blood test is only legal if getting a warrant could result in evidence being destroyed or threatens someone’s life. The state of Missouri appealed the court decision and it was sent to the U.S. Supreme Court.
During the oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Justices were considering what would be a reasonable amount of time for a law enforcement officer to get a search warrant in this type of situation. The Supreme Court Justices also wondered if there are exceptional circumstances in which a police officer should be allowed to get a blood test if a search warrant cannot be obtained within a certain period of time. The Supreme Court’s decision regarding the constitutionality of warrantless DUI blood tests will be made within the next few months.
Maryland is one of twenty-five states that afford people the right to refuse a breath test or blood draw test. Having a needle forcibly inserted into your arm and getting your blood drawn is an extremely intrusive procedure. As a Maryland DUI lawyer, I agree with many civil liberties advocates who argue that warrantless DUI blood tests are a clear violation of unreasonable search and seizure. If you already had a blood test performed on you and are currently facing Maryland DUI charges, what do you do?
Consult with a Maryland DUI/DWI lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced DUI lawyer will carefully examine the facts of the case and law enforcement’s actions. An experienced Maryland DUI lawyer knows there are many defenses that can be asserted to prevent a client from being unfairly prosecuted.
We can challenge the reliability of the results, including how the blood sample was collected, whether the integrity of the blood sample was adversely affected from the time it was collected until it was tested, and the manner in which the blood sample was stored are crucial issues that should be investigated. In addition, the we will find out if the forensics team used proper equipment and calibrations while testing the blood sample.
Furthermore, we need to verify who retained possession of the blood sample to ensure it wasn’t compromised. If law enforcement isn’t able to account for who had the blood sample and where it was located at all times, we can request to have the test results thrown out.
As you can see, there are many complicated and potentially fruitful issues when it comes to DUI and blood draw cases in Maryland. Give us a call as soon as possible so we can look in your matter.