In April of this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that, in general, law enforcement officers must obtain a search warrant before performing blood tests on suspected drunk drivers. In the months to follow, numerous questions have sprouted up as members of the legal community attempt to grapple with the implications of this ruling.
The Missouri DUI case that spawned the Supreme Court proceedings and decision involved a DUI suspect who was transported to a local hospital for a blood test after refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. The officer in this particular case did not obtain a warrant for the blood chemical test, although he had done so in the past. The state's defense was that as alcohol naturally dissipates in the bloodstream, each passing moment equates to valuable evidence being lost. They argued that given the fleeting nature of alcohol in our system, time was of the essence; warrants for blood draws were not.
In this instance – and in all to follow – the Supreme Court disagreed with the state of Missouri. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the majority, noted that during most arrests, there is sufficient time to obtain a warrant. Additionally, she noted that with our amazing technology and our ability to be constantly plugged in and connected with others, law enforcement officers can easily seek warrants using smartphones, emails, or other forms of electronic correspondence. It was also mentioned that most jurisdictions have a magistrate available at all hours specifically to grant warrant requests.
The Supreme Court did address some of the potential arguments to this decision. Justice Sotomayor said that in emergency situations, law enforcement officers may have to use their discretion to eschew the warrant requirement. These instances would be addressed on a case by case basis. Other Justices who offered their own written opinions suggested that clearer rules and guidelines were needed for officers in the field. Chief Justice Clarence, who was the only dissenter, stated that the dissipation of alcohol did constitute an emergency that exempts officers from having to obtain a warrant.
The Decision's Possible Impact on Washington DUI Cases
The Supreme Court's Decision could potentially affect hundreds of DUI cases across the state of Washington. In cases in which no warrant was obtained for a blood draw, prosecutors may not be able to use the results of that test as evidence, regardless of what it shows. Due to the failures of law enforcement officers who did not obtain warrants, defense attorneys – at least those with an experienced and meticulous eye – might have more available ammo with which to defend their clients. Of course, only time will tell how significantly this decision will impact DUI cases in other parts of the country.
Such intricacies in the law shed light on the importance of working with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who knows how to challenge the government's case. At Dichter Law Office, PLLC, a Lynnwood DUI attorney is prepared to review your case so as to analyze all circumstances surrounding your arrest and allegation. From analyzing arresting protocol to representation during criminal cases to assistance with driver's license hearings, no stone will be left unturned. Learn more about this Supreme Court decision, how it may impact your case, and what Dichter Law Office, PLLC can do to defend against the DUI charges and penalties you face. Call (866)620-9524 today.