The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution restricts the power of the police to search your property, or seize your objects while undergoing any criminal investigation. Legal issues regarding searches and seizures commonly arise when law enforcement officials act without a warrant and obtain a blood sample from a suspect who is being investigated for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (OWI).
For instance, law enforcement officials must have a valid warrant to obtain a blood sample during a criminal investigation; however, it is not uncommon for law enforcement officials to obtain a blood sample without a warrant and use the results of the test against a suspect in a court of law.
Read on to learn more about your Fourth Amendment rights in regard to OWI investigations pertaining to blood sample tests below.
OWI Blood Tests
In Michigan, you can be ordered to take a blood alcohol content (BAC) test if a law enforcement official reasonably suspects that you have been driving under the influence of alcohol. One of three tests that may be used to determine your BAC includes the following: blood, breath, or urine test.
Law enforcement officials prefer to administer the blood test since it produces the most accurate results in comparison to the other two tests. A blood test must be drawn by a professional in a hospital (or clinic setting), and specific guidelines must be followed to ensure the sample is not contaminated.
A law enforcement official must either obtain your permission to take your blood sample, or alternatively, obtain a valid warrant. If your consent is not provided, or a valid warrant is not issued, and the blood sample is in fact taken, then the test results may be excluded as evidence against you in the court of law due to an illegal seizure of your person.
Recent Supreme Court Decision Regarding the Warrantless Search & Seizure of a Suspect Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Alcohol
A recent Supreme Court ruling held that law enforcement officials must either obtain a person’s consent, or get a valid warrant executed to obtain a blood sample from a suspect during a criminal investigation regarding a DUI interrogation.
The decision was made in regard to Missouri v. McNeely. See 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013). In that case, an officer obtained a blood sample from a DUI suspect without a warrant, or the suspect’s consent because the officer claimed that the suspect’s liver was in the process of destroying evidence of a crime.
The Missouri Supreme Court disagreed with the law enforcement official contending that the search was unconstitutional and violated the suspect’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Justice Sotomayor stated that “in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.” A warrant must be obtained, or the suspect’s permission, prior to obtaining a blood sample.
If you have been arrested and charged with OWI in Michigan, contact me immediately if you had a blood sample taken without either a warrant or your consent. You may be able to get the test results excluded from being used against you in the court of law.