Being suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol can be very upsetting, especially when this suspicion follows a serious accident. A person can be hurt, confused, disoriented and very scared in these situations; but one thing that should not be a concern at that time is that the police will execute a personal search without a warrant.
This is a serious issue of constitutional protections against unlawful searches, and it is one that is being widely discussed in light of a situation that took place in Colorado. The case has reignited debates over if and when police should be allowed to draw blood from alleged drunk drivers without a warrant, and now it may be a case picked up by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case in question involves evidence collected from a blood draw that was performed without a proper search warrant. Police reportedly drew blood from a man after a serious car accident to measure his blood alcohol level, which was allegedly almost three times over the legal limit. However, the suspicion of intoxication appeared to be weak, and the man was unconscious when police tried to explain the blood draw to him.
It was successfully argued to a state court and the Colorado Supreme Court that the results from the warrantless blood draw should not be taken into consideration. Evidence that is collected without the necessary warrant can be — and generally is — suppressed.
However, prosecutors are arguing that the wait to secure a warrant is too long in cases of drunk driving. In the time it would take to get a warrant, the alcohol that may or may not be in a person’s system could decrease significantly and that evidence would no longer be available. In order to address this, it has been suggested that officers be given more discretion to determine when a warrantless blood draw is justified.
It will be very interesting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court will decide to hear this case, and we will continue to follow this story. If the case does reach the highest court, their ruling will likely have a dramatic and national impact on DUI cases and blood draws.
Source: The Denver Post, “Colorado DUI case sent to U.S. Supreme Court, focuses on blood tests,” Jordan Steffan, Dec. 7, 2014