U.S. Supreme Court Rules Warrantless DUI Blood Test Violates Fourth Amendment

People charged with DWI or DUI in Tennessee have had their rights expanded and therefore may have a new approach to their defense. In April 2013 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in drunk driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in one’s bloodstream does not constitute an exigency or urgency in every case sufficient to justify law enforcementDUI Criminal Law conducting a blood test without a search warrant.

The bottom line of the Court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeely was that every case will be judged on its own facts, so the investigating police officer can never know whether failure to get a warrant would be cause for an entire drunk-driving case to be thrown out. The 5-4 majority said that the Constitution does not allow police to get a blood sample without ever having to get a warrant, in any case.  So, this decision sets up a case-by-case approach, suggesting that getting a warrant very likely would remove any doubt.

What does this mean for Tennessee DUI defendants?

First it is important to understand that a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court establishes minimum privacy rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Accordingly, Tennessee Courts are required to acknowledge and abide by the higher Federal Court’s decision.

Secondly, 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 DUI case can be very complicated. Whether a search warrant was obtained and whether the warrant is valid are just a few issues which should be examined in each DUI case. That is why it is important for a person charged with driving under the influence to seek the services of a competent attorney familiar with Tennessee DUI laws.  Contact Donna Wagner today to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.

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