The world of collecting evidence in DWI cases has changed dramatically over the last few years. Major Supreme Court decisions on what constitutes legal and illegal collections methods for blood and breath continued to influence the way lower courts interpret and rule on DWI cases brought before them.
This is what happened in Smith v. State, a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision that upheld a warrantless blood draw. Of course the Supreme Court recently ruled that warrantless blood draws under most circumstances are illegal, and cannot be used in criminal prosecutions of DWI. But that is not the end of the story for defendants, there is a process that must be followed in order to preserve this issue if it ever goes on appeal.
In this case, the defendant was sentenced to 25 years in prison after this latest in a string of DWI convictions during the course of his lifetime. 25 years is a long time to serve time, especially if the evidence used to put you behind bars was taken outside the authority of the Constitution. But when the issue of the legality of the blood draw was talked about at trial with the judge, the defense in this case never asked for a final ruling on whether it was illegal to draw the blood.
Because of this, the highest criminal court in Texas ruled that the judgement stands, and now the man has to serve 25 years in prison for his DWI conviction. While it sounds like a technicality that caused his judgment to be upheld, the law is full of technicalities that each must be paid the proper attention. After all, what is the law but a jumble of rules, laws, and regulations that must be met in order to achieve one result or another?
Supreme Court’s Stance on Warrantless Blood Draws
This case is quite surprising given the recent Supreme Court decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota. In that case, a state law allowed the police to perform a blood draw under certain circumstances without permission and without a warrant. If a person continued to object, then it constituted a crime. The Supreme Court ruled this law unconstitutional for several reasons. Not the least of which was the invasive nature of blood draw that police use to collect evidence in a DWI case.
Now the law is very clear. The police are not authorized to collect blood specimens from DWI suspects unless they first obtain a warrant from a judge to do so. There are circumstances where the police do not need a warrant, but those are rare and will be decided by a judge before a DWI trial. But none of these rulings by the Supreme Court do a DWI defendant any good unless his legal team brings the issue up at trial, clearly and unequivocally. For example, the police could take a blood sample from a suspect, and use it at trial, and get a conviction unless a good defense attorney objects and makes a judge rule correctly on the issue.
The conclusion? If you are facing DWI charges you need the right team defending you. That is exactly what we do at the Wilder DWI Defense Firm. After you contact us, we will give you a free case evaluation and help you understand what your rights and options are going forward.