By: Attorney Scott Henry
Prior to the Missouri v. McNeely opinion on April 17, 2013, the California Courts had established that police officer's were not required to obtain a warrant prior to forcing a blood test from defendants that were arrested for allegations of driving under the influence and had refused to a submit to a chemical test. The California Courts in their interpretation of
Schmerber v. California, had implemented this per se exigency rule due to the fact that the body naturally dissipates alcohol from a person's blood stream over a period of time.
The Supreme Court in McNeely ruled that there is no per se exigency rule. The Supreme Court applied the standard of the Fourth Amendment and felt strongly that they could not support a per se blanket rule that blood could be drawn by the government without first ever having to seek a warrant from a judge. They stated each case should be judged on its own facts in determining whether a warrant was obtainable by law enforcement and whether they were faced with a true situation of exigency.
Since the ruling in Missouri v. McNeely, the courts are forced to look at the totality of the circumstances in each DUI investigation. Each case will be judged by its own facts in establishing whether law enforcement could have reasonably obtained a warrant prior to obtaining a forced blood sample from a defendant. If the courts deem that a warrant was reasonably obtainable and law enforcement failed to do so, the Courts have the discretion pursuant to the United States Constitution to suppress the blood sample.
Once a defendant's blood sample is suppressed, the District Attorney's office in many cases is forced to dismiss the case because they will be unable to meet the burden of proof in establishing that the defendant was in violation of California Vehicle Code 23152 (A) and or (B).