Can police get a blood sample without a warrant?

When is a blood draw a violation of constitutional rights?

Police need to gather evidence to support allegations of driving under the influence of alcohol. In some cases, this can include a blood sample from the accused. A recent case that made it to the highest court in the country questioned when police can gather evidence through a blood draw.

What was the case?

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) addressed whether or not the police could take a blood sample without a warrant when the accused was unconscious. In the case, a woman called police because she believed her neighbor to be drunk and suicidal. She stated she saw him get into his vehicle and drive away. The police responded and found the man near his van.

The officers took the man to a hospital for a blood draw. During the drive, the man lost consciousness. He was unresponsive when he arrived at the hospital. The police had hospital staff draw a blood sample to test the man's blood alcohol content. He had a BAC of 0.222%. Based on this evidence, the state charged the man with driving while intoxicated.

The man argues that the blood-draw was a violation of his constitutional right to be secure from such searches. He argues the only way the police could have legally obtained this sample without his consent was to first get a warrant. They did not. Instead, the police argued the situation qualified under the exigency exception. This exception essentially allows police to obtain evidence without a warrant if there is the possibility police could lose this evidence if they wait for a warrant. The police argue that had they not gotten the blood sample, the alcohol level in the man's blood would have dissipated.

What did SCOTUS decide?

In this case, SCOTUS ruled police can order a blood draw without a warrant when the individual is unconscious and suspected of drunk driving. It is important to note that this ruling is fairly specific. In most cases, the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant before police can obtain a blood draw.

Are there defenses to these types of allegations?

Yes. Police must follow proper protocol when gathering evidence. If these requirements are not followed, any evidence gathered during an investigation may be considered tainted and thrown out. This can lead to a reduction or even dismissal of charges. One example occurs when the police did not have an adequate reason to conduct a stop of a vehicle in the first place.

This is just one potential defense to consider when facing driving under the influence (DUI) charges. An attorney experienced in criminal defense cases like these can review the allegations and help tailor a defense to your specific situation.