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More clarity now on warrantless blood draws? P.1

The Supreme Court will apparently not be hearing an appeal in a case involving a Colorado man who was arrested in 2012 and forced to submit to a warrantless blood draw after he caused an intersection crash. At trial, the man was able to have the blood test excluded from evidence because the officer failed to make an attempt at securing a warrant before ordering the blood draw.

On appeal, prosecutors had argued that officers should be permitted to force a blood draw without a warrant when lack of time presents a risk that the evidence of intoxication will dissipate. The Colorado Supreme Court had ruled in the case that evidence of the man’s blood test could be excluded, and the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal effectively affirms the lower court’s ruling, though it is questionable whether we now have more clarity on the issue. 

The Supreme Court case is somewhat similar to a 2013 case in which the high court ruled that the natural dissipation of alcohol in a DWI suspect’s bloodstream does not always amount to a sufficient reason to waive the general warrant requirement. That case did not rule out the possibility of waiving the warrant requirement due to natural dissipation, but only held that natural dissipation does not serve as a stand-alone ground to forego an attempt to obtain a warrant. Other factors must be considered.

The recent case was an attempt by the state to clarify the law regarding warrantless blood draws. In particular, it seems that the Supreme Court has refused to endorse the proposal that officers should be able to conduct a warrantless blood draw in cases where they can reasonably determine that there is not enough time to do so without risking loss of evidence. We’ll pick up on this point in our next post.  

Sources:

Denver Post, “Supreme Court won’t hear dispute over DUI blood tests,” Jan. 12, 2015.

Denver Post, “Colorado DUI case sent to U.S. Supreme Court, focuses on blood tests,” Jordan Steffen, Dec. 7, 2015. 

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