February 4, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Revisit Warrantless Blood Draws for DUIs

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The Supreme Court has turned down a request from prosecutors in Colorado to reconsider the use of warrantless blood draws as evidence in drunk driving cases.

The prosecutors’ request stemmed from the case of Jack Schaufele. While Schaufele lay unconscious in a Colorado hospital following a car crash, a police officer had the medical staff take a blood sample to check his BAC. The results showed Schaufele was almost three times the legal limit. However, a judge excluded the results of the test at trial because the officer had not obtained, or even tried to obtain, a search warrant.

The judge’s decision was later affirmed by the Colorado Supreme Court, which cited the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Missouri v. McNeely. In that case the court upheld the suppression of a DUI suspect’s blood draw that was taken without a warrant. The majority of justices dismissed arguments that the body’s rapid metabolism of alcohol inherently creates exigent circumstances that allow for a blanket exception to the 4th Amendment and requirements to obtain a warrant for blood tests.

The court’s 2013 ruling has impacted DUI laws across the country. Last fall, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the state’s implied consent statue wasn’t enough to justify warrantless blood draws. Likewise, the Texas Supreme Court struck down that state’s “no refusal” law, which permitted law enforcement to collect blood from suspected drunk drivers who refused to be tested.

Thirteen other states supported Colorado’s request for the Supreme Court to take the case, arguing that the requirement for a warrant cripples efforts to prosecute and punish drunk drivers. Has your jurisdiction enacted different procedures in order to fast track the approval of search warrants in DUI arrests?


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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