Up until last week, the law allowed police officers to forcibly draw blood from any person suspected of driving under the influence, if that person refused to voluntarily submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath or urine. The U.S. Supreme Court has now determined that “forced blood draw” is a violation of the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.
A 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision made an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement in DUI related forced blood draws. It basically stated that no warrant is required to forcibly draw a person’s blood if the arresting officer believes that the person is driving under the influence. The rationale was that blood-alcohol evidence is time sensitive because alcohol dissipates quickly in the bloodstream, and the time it would take to obtain a warrant would affect the evidence, the evidence being the blood.
On April 17, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the 1966 decision to say basically that police officers must follow the Fourth Amendment requirement to obtain a warrant before forcibly drawing blood from a DUI suspect. It further went on to say that there is no automatic exception to the warrant requirement as stated in the 1966 case and that quick dissipation does not warrant the exception to the Fourth Amendment. However, it did provide that not every situation would require a warrant and that it should be determined case by case, after taking into consideration all of the circumstances in any individual case.
So what this means is that, when someone refuses to submit to a test of their breath, blood or urine, the officer must first obtain a warrant to draw their blood, unless there is an urgent reason not to. An example of a situation where a warrant may not be required might be something like this: If you are involved in an accident and are injured, the time it takes for the officers to investigate the accident and the emergency personnel to stabilize and transport you to the hospital, would effect the evidence, meaning the blood. The more time that lapses, the lower your blood-alcohol level goes. So, if it is two hours before the officer arrives at the hospital to take your statement, and at that time believes your are under the influence, the officer may decide that the time it would take to obtain a warrant would affect the evidence and thus, require you to give your blood.
So now, when a DUI suspect refuses to provide a blood, breath or urine sample, at least in some cases, the officer will be required to obtain a warrant before they can proceed to force a blood draw.