Police Need a Warrant for a DUI Blood Test in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the police cannot draw your blood without your permission–even if you are unconscious–unless they have a warrant. There are only a few, emergency situations when the police may take blood without your consent. This decision is in line with the nationwide approach to DUI chemical tests, which are viewed as searches within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
When the police violate your fourth amendment rights by illegally searching or seizing your property (including your own body), the so-called fruits of that search or seizure cannot be used to prove your guilt in court. As a result, your lawyer will likely be able to have the evidence of the blood test removed from the DUI case. This goes to show what a difference a skilled Pittsburgh DUI attorney can make.
Whether or not you blood was taken, if you’re charged with a DUI in Pittsburgh, call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 ASAP for a free consultation. Let us review the details and help find a way to limit the evidence.
Why Warrantless Blood Draws are Illegal on Unconscious Suspects
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion, which was authored by Justice David Wecht, draws upon two bodies of law:
- Implied Consent Statute–Pennsylvania motorists are deemed to have given consent to chemical tests when suspected of DUI. But they may revoke this consent and instead receive administrative penalties. This includes a driver’s license suspension. Therefore, just because a driver is unconscious, it does not mean they can’t revoke their implied consent, which is an absolute right.
- U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions–Both the state and federal constitutions prohibit unreasonable searches. Drawing blood from an unconscious suspect without a warrant in circumstances where obtaining a warrant was feasible constitutes an unreasonable, and therefore an illegal search.
It is important to remember two things about this court decision. First, the police might still draw your blood if you are unconscious, or collect evidence against you in other ways. It’s up to your defense attorney to hold the police accountable and have illegal evidence removed by filing a motion to suppress. Second, there may be some circumstances under which the police may legally draw blood without your consent, and without a warrant.
When the Police Don’t Need a Warrant to Draw Blood
According to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Missouri v. McNeely (2013), a blood draw is a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. However, the Supreme Court narrowed reasonable searches to the following situations:
- A judge or magistrate authorizes the search by issuing a warrant
- The suspect consents to the search
- The officer is facing exigent circumstances that justify the search, which in a DUI investigation means the imminent destruction of evidence
In McNeely, the Supreme Court decided that the dissipation of alcohol in a suspect’s blood does not necessarily constitute an exigent circumstance, even though it arguably consists in the destruction of evidence. There is no hard rule as to when the police can take your blood without your consent and without a warrant. Instead, courts authorize these searches on a case-by-case basis.
Basically, a warrantless and unconsented blood draw may be allowed in a DUI case if it would have been unreasonable for the police to obtain a warrant.
Was Your Blood Taken in a DUI Case?
If your DUI involves your blood being taken without your consent or while you were unconscious after an accident, you will need a persuasive and knowledgeable Pittsburgh DUI attorney by your side. Our team has a long history of challenging these unreasonable searches to get favorable outcomes in DUI cases.
We can possibly demonstrate that the police had ample opportunity to get a warrant, but failed to do so or never should have taken your blood in the first place. This could result in having your DUI reduced or completely dismissed,
Charged with DUI in Pittsburgh? Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 for a free and confidential case consultation.