The Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, recently overturned a DWI conviction that could have resulted in a felony for the man appealing. The case is Texas v. Munoz, No. 08-13-00164-CR, Tex. Ct. App. 8th (2015), and involves a man who was pulled over, arrested, and charged with felony DWI in 2009. He originally won his case at the trial court level, but had to endure the appellate process before he had a final disposition on the issues at hand.
This ruling comes on the heels of new laws about forcing someone to take a blood or breath test in connection with a DWI investigation. For years many states had rules that allowed the police to take a blood sample from a DWI suspect, even if the suspect refused, and Texas was among them. Under Texas Transportation Code, section 724.012(b)(3)(B), a police officer was given the authority to take a blood sample from a suspect if the suspect had two or more DWI convictions in the past. But this case shows why that is no longer good law.
What Happened in the Case
The opinion in this case reveals that the man in question was arrested after someone called in a tip about a suspicious vehicle. The police went to the reported location and found a man sitting in his truck with a beer can in between his legs. The man was asleep with the car engine turned off and the lights in the car turned on.
Even though the car was not being operated by the man, the police woke him up and asked him to get out of the car. The police reported that when he got up and exited the car, there was a strong odor of alcohol that followed the man. The police officer involved also reported that the man staggered when walking and had bloodshot eyes. After beginning his investigation, the police officer decided he had enough evidence to arrest the man, did so, and booked him on DWI charges.
After being arrested the man refused to give a blood sample so that the police could test his alcohol levels. As the police officer took the man into the station, he passed the Municipal Court building where a judge was available to sign search warrants. The police officer did not seek out or get a warrant to have the man’s blood drawn. Despite not getting a warrant, and over the man’s objections, the police took a blood sample from the man and used it as evidence in their case against him for DWI.
At trial the man asked the trial court to suppress the blood samples as evidence because taking them against his will violated the 4th Amendment. At first the court would not grant the motion, but in light of the recent Supreme Court decision of Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552 (2013), the trial court agreed that the police may not take a blood sample against a person’s will because the 4th Amendment requires that the police first get a search warrant.
The Texas Court of Appeals for the 8th District agreed with the trial court. The state wanted the conviction to stand on the grounds that the Supreme Court did not decide the Missouri case until 2013, but the law requires that when a court changes a law during the time when a case is pending, the pending cases must apply current court opinions and dismiss them when constitutional rights are at stake. It is now more clear than ever that the police are not allowed to take a blood sample against a person’s will.
As you can see from this story, the law dealing with DWIs is complex, and can change in a moment’s notice. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we stay up-to-date with all the changes in the law that would affect you. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DWI, contact us. We want to put our team to work fighting for you.