As we have covered before on this blog, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that police must obtain a warrant before they draw a person’s blood to measure alcohol content in most situations. The ruling, Missouri v. McNeely, also said that concerns about alcohol dissipating over time is not an “exigent circumstance” that would allow for a warrantless blood draw.
In 2012, a northern Minnesota man was convicted on 11 charges relating to a fatal accident. Authorities say that he was intoxicated at the time of the crash, which contributed to the criminal charges filed against the man. However, authorities obtained a blood sample from the man without a warrant, which is a major component of a recent criminal appeal.
The man involved in this case sought post-trial relief for his 57-month prison sentence. According to him, part of his convictions and sentence was based on evidence obtained from the warrantless blood alcohol test, since state prosecutors contended that he was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash.
Interestingly enough, the blood drawn didn’t show that the man was legally drunk. However, crime lab technicians estimated that he was probably over the legal limit, though that conclusion is not definite. In addition, first responders claim that they smelled alcohol on the man.
A district judge denied the man’s motion for relief, saying that the blood draw was consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling. Events related to the accident amounted to exigent circumstances, according to the district judge.
At this time, the man may be considering another appeal in Minnesota court. No matter the circumstances behind drunk driving-related charges, any evidence used by prosecutors should be obtained legally in order for trials to remain fair.
Source: Inforum.com, “Warrantless searches in drunken driving cases at issue in 2011 crash,” Sarah Smith, Dec. 19, 2013