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Tennessee court demands warrant for DUI blood draws

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the people from unreasonable searches by police. The Amendment has provided ample number of cases that have litigated the issue of the reasonableness of a search.

What is most remarkable about many of these cases is the refusal by law enforcement to avail themselves of warrants for searches when they were easily obtainable. Even in situations where the police have time to obtain warrant, that would not compromise their investigation, they fail to go to a judge for a warrant.

Two recent cases from Tennessee demonstrate this issue.

In both cases, men were stopped for a suspected DUI. Both men were repeat DUI offenders. One man crashed his truck into a pole and a building and escaped. The officer tracked him down and took him to a hospital after he refused to have a blood test.

The second man was arrested after refusing to perform a field sobriety test or have a blood test, so the officer took him to hospital and forcibly drew blood for a test.

The state argued it was a case of "exigent circumstances," meaning they could not wait for a warrant, as the evidence, here the alcohol in the blood, would be oxidized and produce a less accurate blood alcohol content measurement if they had to wait for a judge to approve such a warrant.

Except for the fact that the county had a magistrate standing by 24-hour-a-day to review warrant requests, which was designed for just this circumstance.

In both cases, none of the officers involved even attempted to obtain a warrant by this method. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals was not amused by this flouting of constitutional procedure and struck down both cases.

thenewspaper.com, "Tennessee Courts Crack Down On Cops Taking Blood From Drivers," October 15, 2014

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