Nonconsensual Warrantless Blood Draw Deemed Unconstitional by U.S. Supreme Court
By: SCOTT MACNAIR, ESQ.
On Wednesday, April 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision concerning whether a police officer has the authority to obtain an individual’s blood sample without first securing a warrant. The case had been appealed from the Missouri State Supreme Court which ruled that the nonconsensual seizure of a suspect’s blood was unconstitutional under the circumstances. The facts underlying the case involved a motorist who had been arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol and who refused to submit to a breathalyzer test and also refused to consent to a voluntary blood draw. The officer then performed a nonconsensual blood draw.
The United States Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Missouri State Supreme Court and found that no exception to the search warrant requirement existed under the factual scenario presented. While the prosecutors argued that an exception to the search warrant requirement exists for exigent circumstances, the court determined that a diminishing blood alcohol content level does not rise to the level of an exigent circumstance obviating the need for a search warrant. Some of the justices reasoned that no exigency existed because the officer could have obtained a search warrant relatively quickly and therefore could have preserved the blood evidence for testing.
This case solidifies some prior rulings by the United States Supreme Court and other courts throughout the nation, which have held that forcible or nonconsensual blood draws are unconstitutional pursuant to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, in Pennsylvania as in many other states, there are consequences for refusing to submit to breath or blood test during a DUI arrest where reasonable grounds for the test exist. A Pennsylvania motorist who refuses to supply a breath or blood sample upon request will be subject to a minimum one year driver’s license suspension.
If you have been arrested for DUI, or have had your driver’s license suspended, it is imperative that you contact an experienced lawyer, who can raise appropriate constitutional challenges and/or defenses on your behalf. For a free consultation concerning your case, please contact either Scott A. MacNair, Esquire or Daniel M. Keane, Esquire.
This article is not legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.