United States Supreme Court Upholds Constitution In Unreasonable Search & Seizure DUI Blood Draw Case
Currently, under Tennessee law, a law enforcement officer is authorized to take a blood sample from a citizen, through force or otherwise, and without the requirement that the officer obtain a search warrant, if he or she has probable cause to believe the driver of a motor vehicle has committed any of the following crimes: DUI, vehicular homicide , aggravated vehicular homicide, and who has a prior conviction for any of the above offenses. Tennessee statutes permit the government to forcefully intrude into the body of the citizen and have the citizen’s blood analyzed for whatever purpose the government so decides, while by-passing the requirement that a search warrant be obtained. When the crime of DUI is suspected, Tennessee law also permits the intrusion into the body of its citizens without a warrant if a passenger in the motor vehicle is a child under the age of 16 or if the driver is involved in an accident resulting in even the slightest injury to another person.
Every year the legislature grants more authority to officers on the street, bypassing the constitutional protections of a search warrant.
The Supreme Court of the United States has finally stepped in to at least stem the erosion of our personal freedoms in the decision released today of Missouri v. McNeely. The Constitution of the United States has long held that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that a search of a home or person without a warrant must fall into an exception to the warrant requirement mandated by the Fourth Amendment before being allowed. The Supreme Court today held that the dissipation of alcohol alone cannot avoid the warrant requirement mandated by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In Missouri v. McNeely the Court declined to adopt the government’s proposition that, in drunk driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream constitutes an exigency in every case sufficient to justify a blood test without a warrant or without the consent of the citizen. The Court considered the government’s request to adopt a per serule that exigent circumstances necessarily exist when an officer has probable cause to believe a person has been driving under the influence of alcohol because BAC (blood alcohol content) evidence is inherently evanescent.
Even though the Court recognized that blood alcohol levels do dissipate over time, this fact alone was not sufficiently urgent that the constitutional requirement demanding a search warrant unless exigent circumstances exist should be ignored. The Court strongly and correctly noted that this type of “search” involved a compelled physical intrusion beneath a citizen’s skin and into his veins to obtain a sample of his blood for use as evidence in a criminal investigation. The invasion of bodily integrity clearly implicates a citizen’s “most personal and deep-rooted expectations of privacy”. As search warrants are ordinarily required for a search of homes absent an emergency, no less should be required be before intrusions into the human body are allowed.
Since alcohol dissipates even more quickly than other types of drugs that can impair a driver, it logically follows that in cases where only drugs are suspected, the need to permit the warrantless search would be even less of an exigent circumstance and therefore a warrant would be required before allowing the government to intrude upon the human body on the suspicion of DUI based upon drugs, including prescription medications.
While attempting to present the best criminal defense to citizens accused of DUI, I am pleased to see the enforcement of the long held and trusted requirements of the Constitution to limit the power of the government to intrude upon the integrity of the body of its citizens. If you are charged with DUI in Lebanon, Mt. Juliet, Murfreesboro, or Gallatin or anywhere in middle Tennessee and have questions about the taking of blood as part of an investigation into DUI or vehicular homicide cases, please give me a call to discuss your rights: rights finally strengthened by the Constitutional holding today in Missouri v. McNeely* by the United States Supreme Court.