In our last post, we briefly discussed a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to not hear an appeal out of Colorado which sought clarity on a previous Supreme Court ruling which refused to recognize an automatic exception to the general warrant requirement where officers are concerned about the natural dissipation of alcohol from a suspect’s bloodstream. Here we want to look a bit more at this issue, particularly whether we now have more clarity with the court’s refusal to hear the Colorado appeal.
In its 2013 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his dissenting opinion that there should be an exception to the general warrant rule in DUI cases when officers are able to determine with a reasonable degree of certainty that there is not enough time to wait to obtain a warrant before drawing blood due to the natural dissipation of alcohol. In such cases, he explained, officers are not going to be able to know how much time they have for sure.
Roberts’ opinion differed from that of the majority of the court, which held that there can be no automatic or blanket exception in such cases. Rather, the court held that multiple factors must be considered in recognizing an exception.
As to the question of whether or not states now have more clarity on the issue of warrantless blood draws, it seems only slightly. In declining to hear the case, the Supreme Court seems to have simply reaffirmed its holding that multiple factors must be considered when granting an exception to the warrant requirement in DUI cases. The message has been reaffirmed: natural dissipation, absent any other factors, is not a sufficient reason for not obtaining a warrant.
Search and seizure law is an important factor in DWI defense, of course, and those who are facing drunk-driving charges should always work with an experienced criminal defense attorney in scrutinizing police work. Doing so ensures that the defendant’s rights will be zealously protected.