In what many are hoping is a sign of things to come, yet another court in yet another state issued a strong opinion banning the use of warrantless blood tests in drunk driving cases. The latest ruling comes from the Arizona Court of Appeals and says that prosecutors across the state will no longer be allowed to use the results from the warrantless tests as evidence.
The case concerned the arrest of a woman from Yavapai County, AZ who went on to be convicted of drunk driving based on evidence obtained from an illegal search. The woman hit a guardrail one night and was intercepted by a police officer who suspected that she was intoxicated. The officer asked her to go to a local hospital for a blood test to determine her level of impairment, a request the woman initially refused. However, the officer then told her that she’d be arrested if she refused to go to the hospital, something that convinced her to change her mind.
The blood test confirmed that her BAC level was greater than the state’s legal limit, evidence that was used to secure her conviction. Thankfully, the woman decided to fight her case, appealing the matter up to the state Court of Appeals.
The Court heard arguments on the issue and concluded that the consent to submit to the blood test was coerced and not the result of voluntary consent on the part of the driver. Without this voluntary consent, the Court of Appeals said that the evidence needed to be excluded from court because the officer also failed to secure a warrant authorizing the procedure. The woman’s was given a new trial and had her existing conviction tossed. The moral of the story: no warrant, no real consent, no dice.
Cases just like this one have been and will continue to be heard across the country in the wake of the important Supreme Court case, Missouri v. McNeely. Since the Court held that warrantless blood tests would be disallowed unless there were extraordinary circumstances present to justify such an intrusive search, challenges across the country have sought to clarify exactly when and where such searches are tolerated.
In Minnesota, legal experts are still awaiting an important ruling from the state Supreme Court in State v. Bernard, a case concerning the different, though related issue of the implied consent law. In Bernard, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Fourth Amendment permits the police to require the chemical testing of a driver to determine impairment and allows for criminal punishment if the person refuses. How that case is ultimately decided will impact the lives of many Minnesotans who have found themselves faced with the difficult choice of having to consent to an invasive search or face criminal penalties for refusing to go along.
Source: “Ruling disallows involuntary DUI evidence,” published at Fox10Phoenix.com