Drunk driving: Unwarranted blood draws are an overstep

The current session of the U.S. Supreme Court has included multiple cases relevant to criminal defense. In addition to the drug-sniffing dog case, previously covered on this blog, the court made another decision that could impact some defendants in Maryland drunk driving cases.

After being pulled over by police and failing field sobriety tests, a man refused to take a Breathalyzer test. At this point, the man who was pulled over over on suspicion of DUI was taken to a hospital where they forced him to get his blood drawn for testing. In the recently decided case, the high court determined that the police should have obtained a warrant to perform the blood test.

The officers responsible for the arrest and warrantless blood draw reasoned that alcohol evidence dissipates over time, so it was necessary to obtain evidence without court approval. Despite this line of thought, the nation’s top court determined that diminishing blood-alcohol content is not a sufficient reason to order a blood test without a warrant.

An invasive police measure, such as taking blood from a person, is something that should be taken very seriously. As such, Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out that modern technology makes it rather easy to obtain a warrant quickly, so the circumstances under which police can order a warrantless blood draw are quite rate.

This ruling shows how important it is for criminal defense teams to sort through every aspect of a drunk driving case. In the haste to make an arrest, police can make mistakes. It’s important to make sure that every defendant is treated fairly during the criminal process, and upholding protections against unfair seizures of evidence can help prevent a miscarriage of justice.

Source: New York Times, “Court Says Police Need Warrant for Blood Test,” Adam Liptak, April 17, 2013

  • Drunk driving charges can have very serious long-term consequences. To learn more about your legal options, please see our Maryland DUI page.

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