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In California, Can Blood Be Taken Against Your Will in a DUI Case?

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution provides that we have the right to feel safe from unreasonable searches, and where a search warrant is issued, that it must be supported by probable cause and be specific. A search conducted without a warrant is presumptively unreasonable unless it meets one of a number of exceptions carved out by the Supreme Court. In 1966 the Supreme Court decided that it was acceptable for law enforcement to procure a blood sample from a suspect over his objections during a DUI investigation. A fear that the blood alcohol content of a suspect diminishes naturally spurred the Court to agree with law enforcement that there was an “exigent circumstance” supporting this very intrusive and uncomfortable search of the suspect’s body.

The Supreme Court has helped restore some strength to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and the protections it provides recently. Their April decision in Missouri v. McNeely strikes down the proposition that DUI investigations necessarily meet the “exigent circumstances” exception relied on in Schmerber. The accused in this case was pulled over by a Missouri State Trooper. When he refused to take a breathalyzer on the spot, he was cuffed and taken to a nearby hospital where his blood was drawn over his objections! In holding that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated the Court focuses on the lack of injuries requiring hospital care, or any other circumstances that would cause unreasonable delay in properly acquiring a warrant before drawing McNeely’s blood.

While Missouri v. McNeely doesn’t mean that warrantless blood draws are always unreasonable, it provides for a totality of the circumstances test that allows for your lawyer to aggressively ensure your rights are respected during a DUI investigation. Simply carting you off to the nearest physician and drawing blood against your will is no longer acceptable!