A case concerning a deadly Minnesota car accident may be heading to the state’s Court of Appeals so it can decide whether a driver’s rights were violated when his blood was taken without a warrant. The defendant’s case was heard last week by a Hubbard County District Judge who denied his requested post-conviction relief.
The case began back in 2011 when the defendant crashed into a woman’s vehicle head-on while driving along Highway 34. Prosecutors argued defendant was drunk at the time, something that they say led to the terrible accident that left the victim dead and two other passengers seriously injured. The defendant was ultimately charged and convicted of 11 counts related to the crash and was sentenced to a 57-month stay in prison for criminal vehicular operation.
In his petition for post-conviction relief, the defendant contends that mistakes made by his attorney and a lack of a warrant allowed damaging blood-alcohol evidence to be used at trial, evidence that ought to have been suppressed. Defendant claims that as a result of the admitted evidence, his Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
However, the Hubbard County judge disagreed, ruling that the defendant would likely have been convicted regardless of the blood test results. The judge said that testimony from emergency responders also indicated the smell of alcohol coming from defendant. Even if the blood evidence had been excluded, this evidence could have been admitted and served as a basis for his conviction.
The issue of warrantless DUI blood draws has received substantial attention in recent months, ever since the Supreme Court weighed in on the matter in the Missouri v. McNeely case. The Supreme Court wrote in its majority opinion that cases concerning blood draws must be decided on an individual basis and that such blood draws do not require warrants if there are exigent circumstances present.
In this case, the Hubbard County judge decided that there were exigent circumstances which made securing a warrant impractical. Specifically, the judge cited defendant’s severe injuries as a reason for the blood draws. The judge also said that Roehler’s attorney performed sufficiently well and that no mistakes made by his lawyer impacted the outcome of the trial.
Interestingly, none of the three blood tests ever showed that defendant was legally intoxicated the night of the crash, with BAC levels for each one coming in under 0.08 percent. However, a crime lab technician analyzing the evidence performed a backward extrapolation of the results and found that at the time of the accident defendant could have been above the state’s legal limit. Whether the case will be appealed remains to be seen, but many agree it would present an interesting example of the issues posed by warrantless blood draw cases.
Can a DWI Attorney in Minnesota Assist You in a Warrantless DWI Blood Draw Case?
A recent case from the Minnesota Supreme Court dealt directly with this issue. Unfortunately, it was a confusing decision that left more questions than answers as to the legality of a warrantless blood draws by the police in DWI cases in Minnesota. As a result, it is important to sit down with DWI attorney, if you have been arrested with driving under the influence of alcohol and submitted to a sample of your blood at the request of the police. The attorney should look at the totality of the circumstances of your particular case to determine any potential defenses that could result in the suppression of the government’s test.
Source: “Warrantless searches in drunken driving cases at issue in 2011 crash,” by Sarah Smith, published at Inforum.com.