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Warrantless Non-Consensual Blood Draws In A DUI Case

In the state of Arizona, under A.R.S. §28- 1321, police are permitted to request a warrantless, non-consensual blood draw, from a DUI suspect who is unconscious. The blood draw may be unconstitutional if an individual’s rights are violated in the process. The Arizona Supreme Court recently ruled that the unconscious clause is permissible only when invoked non-routinely, under exigent circumstances that are case-specific. The Court decided that the blood draw was unconstitutional because circumstances were not exigent, and the test was requested under a routine procedure, rather than consideration of the facts of the case.

The Arizona implied consent law didn’t allow the State to avoid establishing voluntary consent or another exception to the requirement of getting a warrant, to justify a warrantless blood draw from a DUI suspect. Unless an exception applies, a warrantless blood draw to which the DUI suspect doesn’t consent is unconstitutional. The Court reasoned that with probable cause the police could conduct a warrantless, non-consensual blood draw from an unconscious suspect if they reasonably believed a warrant could not be obtained without significant delay that would result in undermining the testing.

The court explained that routinely allowing blood draws from suspects sent out of the state for an emergency treatment without specifically deciding whether a warrant could be gotten in a timely fashion was in the least constitutionally suspect. The Court acknowledged that there was sufficient evidence at the scene to establish probable cause so that the officer could have requested a search warrant.

Systematically bypassing a warrant based on a routine procedure, without consent or considering case-specific circumstances, was in violation of 4th Amendment protections from unlawful search and seizures. The Court noted that the purpose of the Exclusionary Rule was to deter law enforcement from engaging in practices that violate an individual’s constitutional rights. With regard to the good faith exception, the Court explained that if police officers act in good faith on a binding case-law precedent that clearly authorizes a specific procedure, it would apply. However, they advised that was not the case here.

It is necessary for law enforcement to look at the specific facts particular to each case in order to invoke a warrantless blood draw on an unconscious suspect, when it is not feasible to get a timely warrant. Police must have probable cause based on exigent circumstances in order to request an non-consensual warrantless blood draw. Exigent circumstances must be established by considering the unique circumstances in each case to ensure that the warrantless blood draw does not violate the suspect’s rights. The Arizona Supreme Court determined that it is unconstitutional to routinely request a blood test be taken on DUI suspects who are unconscious and being transported out-of-state.

If you are being investigated at a stop for suspicion of DUI it is important that you preserve your rights and avoid self-incrimination. The best way to protect your rights is to be familiar with them, and how they apply under specific circumstances.

Below are some things to keep in mind if you are being investigated for DUI, your rights under the Arizona’s Unconscious Clause, or if you have been arrested for impaired driving due to alcohol or drugs: No matter how serious your charges, you have the right to defend them.

There may be defenses that can be used to challenge your charges and evidence that a competent DUI defense attorney may be able to utilize to safeguard your rights and protect your future.

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