A Minnesota Court of Appeals recently took the same position as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on taking blood samples in a DWI investigation. The legal issue in both cases is whether the police can take a blood sample without a warrant from a judge when the person does not consent. Both courts have decided that the answer to that question is no.
Like Texas, Minnesota has an implied consent law that requires people to submit to a blood or breath test when suspected of DWI. The consequences for not complying with that law are civil, meaning that a person could lose his or her driving license. In those situations the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not implicated because the person still has the right to refuse even if it means the loss of a driver’s license.
In contrast, taking someone’s blood without his or her permission and without a search warrant does implicate the 4th Amendment. That amendment prohibits the police from making unreasonable searches or seizures without a warrant issued by a judge. There are circumstances where the police are justified in searching or seizing someone without a warrant, but a taking a blood sample from a DWI suspect is not one of them according to a growing number of states.
A Look at the Texas Case
All of these cases have come on the heels of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013). In that case the highest court in the land ruled that the warrantless taking of a blood sample from a DWI suspect in Missouri violated the suspect’s rights. In their decision the court issued guidelines and principles for lower courts faced with the same question.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals faced a similar question as that found in the McNeely case in 2014. Using the language from the McNeely case, the Texas court overturned a portion of Texas implied consent law and ruled that the police must obtain a warrant before drawing blood from a DWI suspect without their consent. The ruling does not mean that a suspect’s license will not be suspended, however.
The same issues were presented in a similar manner for the Minnesota case. That case involved a state law that allows the police to take a blood sample from a DWI suspect without permission and without a warrant. But the Minnesota court determined that doing so violates a suspect’s 4th Amendment rights.
This represents a continuing trend that protects the rights of DWI suspects in situations where they are vulnerable to the power of the police. Given the overwhelming public information campaigns that seek to make all DWI suspects guilty before an investigation and trial, this is an important step that protects the rights of everyone. At the Wilder DWI Defense Firm we take your Texas and U.S. Constitutional rights seriously. For every case that we handle we investigate the real facts, apply the applicable law, and give our clients their best shot at fighting the charges against them. If you have been charged with a DWI in the Dallas or surrounding areas, contact us.