Posts Tagged Tennessee Forced Blood Draw

U.S. Supreme Court Requires Search Warrants for Blood Draws in Many DUI Cases

Tennesseans charged with the crime of Drunk Driving (DUI/DWI) may have a new defense.  On April 17, 2013 the United States Supreme Court ruled, “… in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant.” Instead, the court determined that exigency in this context must be determined on an individual basis dependent on the totality of the circumstances in each case.  See Missouri v. McNeely (Docket No. 11-1425).

So what does this mean for Tennessee DUI defendants?

First, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court sets forth the minimum privacy rights guaranteed by our federal Constitution.  Tennessee Courts are required by law to follow the ruling of this decision.

Second, if a person suspected of a DUI in Tennessee decides to invoke his or her right to refuse the arresting officer’s request for a blood sample, it is likely that the officer will need to obtain a search warrant in order to legally proceed to obtain a blood sample over the suspect’s objection.  If a blood sample is obtained without a search warrant even if the suspect refused, and there is no justification of urgency based upon the facts of the case, the blood test results may be inadmissible as evidence against the suspect.

As a result of this Supreme Court decision, some Tennessee law enforcement agencies are now obtaining a search warrant in every instance where a blood test is appropriate.  Should this occur in your DUI case, the Tennessee Statute (T.C.A. or Tennessee Code Annotated) that authorizes refusal of a chemical test (T.C.A. 55-10-406) is trumped by the search warrant and the suspect should cooperate with the officer in order to avoid a physically compelled withdrawal of one’s blood.

The legal analysis to be applied in each case can be complicated.  It is therefore important for someone charged with the offense of DUI to hire a lawyer familiar with this issue.  I am proud to state that in the McNeely opinion, the concurring and dissenting opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts referred to the legal text, Drunk Driving Defense, in a footnote.  As regular readers of this blog know, this text is co-authored by Lawrence Taylor (California DUI attorney) and the managing partner of this law firm.  Should you find yourself in need of a Tennessee attorney, the DUI defense lawyers at Oberman & Rice are ready to assist you.  Our lawyers can also be reached by calling (865) 249-7200.


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