DWI Cases: Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement

One of the common misconceptions about the charge of DWI is that it is different than other crimes and should be handled differently, as well. That is not true. The state decided decades ago that driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs is a crime, but it did not create a new class of crime when DWI was created, so DWi crimes must be treated the same as all other crimes in Texas.

What is the point of treating DWIs like other crimes? The point is that those accused of DWI must be afforded the same rights as those accused of any other crime. This means being protected by such powerful provisions as the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment requires the police to first obtain a warrant before conducting a search or seizure of a person, property, or other effects.

Fourth Amendment and Blood Draws

It was not until last year when the Supreme Court finally ruled and decided that the crime of DWI would be afforded the same treatment as other crimes. They ruled in Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016) that the police must first obtain a warrant from a judge before forcing someone to give a blood sample in connection with a DWI investigation. Interestingly enough, in the same opinion the High Court ruled that the police do not need to get a warrant to take a breathalyzer while investigating DWI.

While this is the law of the land now, and it is clear the police must first obtain a warrant before drawing blood, there are exceptions to this requirement. No matter how clear a law is, or how strongly a right is protected, there are always exceptions to those laws in how they apply. The reason is all the different fact patterns that present themselves in the millions of criminal cases that come about every year. Getting a blood draw in a DWI case has its own exceptions.

If a persons is pulled over and investigated by the police for DWI and there are not exceptional circumstances surrounding the investigation, there will be no excuse for the police to not get a warrant to draw blood. But in some cases, say in an accident in which life and death is in question, the police can ask the hospital to take a blood sample and later use it for the prosecution. Situations like these may be justifiable for not getting a warrant to draw blood, but as you can see, they are rare.

Defending and Knowing Your Rights

This is an important discussion because everyone accused of crime, whether DWI or other crime, has rights. When those rights are violated in any way by the police or another state actor, there are remedies to fix the violations. These remedies can include getting a case dismissed, a charge, altered, or other remedies to ensure that the violation of rights does not continue into the future. If you are facing DWI charges, it is essential you know what your rights are and whether they have been violated.

At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we focus our practice of law on defending the rights of those accused of DWI. If you are facing a charge of DWI, contact us so we can help you understand what your rights and options are going forward.