Will Police Need Warrants Before Taking Forcible Blood Tests?

By N. Ryan LaBar | Criminal Defense Attorney
Published: 2012

The United States Supreme Court recently announced it will decide whether the Fourth Amendment allows law enforcement officials to force non-consenting suspects in impaired driving cases to take a blood test without first requesting a warrant.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects Americans from unlawful searches and seizures. This means that law enforcement cannot search you, your home, or your vehicle, without permission unless they have acquired a probable cause warrant.

Different States, Different Decisions

States across the nation have wrestled with the question on whether or not the Fourth Amendment requires police to get a warrant before administering a blood test to a suspected drunk driver. Courts in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Oregon all allow warrantless blood tests based on exigent circumstances (ex. the more time that passes decreases the likelihood that the alcohol will be detected in the bloodstream).

Courts in Utah and Iowa, on the other hand, disagree. They acknowledge that alcohol rapidly dissipates from a person's bloodstream, but have found that is not enough to allow a warrantless blood test.

Missouri is the most recent state to have grappled with this issue. In the Missouri case, the police pulled over a man for speeding. After pulling him over the police suspected the driver was intoxicated and administered field sobriety tests. The man did poorly on the tests and the police requested that he take an alcohol breath test. The driver refused the breathalyzer. The arresting officer then transported the driver to a medical clinic and when the driver refused to submit to a blood test, the officer directed the medical staff to take one anyway.

The blood test showed that the driver was well over the legal limit. At his trial, the driver objected to the blood test results as evidence arguing that the involuntary blood test was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial judge agreed and barred the evidence at the trial. Numerous appeals ensued with the supreme court of that state deciding that police officers need a warrant before administering an involuntary blood test.

The justices of the United States Supreme Court have agreed to review that decision and their ruling will clear up the divergent state decisions. If they decide that involuntary blood tests are unconstitutional, it could have an impact on anyone convicted of a DUI based on an involuntary blood test. The decision may affect DUI convictions in Florida as well as all other states in the U.S.

If you are Arrested for DUI

If you are arrested for drunk driving, contact our experienced Central Florida criminal defense attorney to learn your rights. You may call us at 1-866-680-4LAW or fill out our online form located at the top of the page and we will contact you shortly. We respect your privacy and will keep all your information confidential.

 

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N. Ryan LaBar
Criminal Defense Attorney

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