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Is Drawing Blood As Part of a DUI Investigation Covered by the Fourth Amendment?

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Searches and seizures executed without a warrant are presumed unreasonable unless there is an established exception. The Supreme Court has found the act of drawing an individual's blood (such as in a DUI investigation) to be a form of a seizure requiring a warrant, unless exigent circumstances make obtaining a warrant impractical. Courts evaluate the totality of the circumstances on a case-by-case basis to determine whether exigent circumstances justify a warrantless search. Exigent circumstances have been found to exist where the time needed to obtain a warrant would result in the destruction of evidence.

Last January, the United States Supreme Court decided in Missouri v. McNeely that in DUI investigations, the natural diminution of alcohol in a defendant's bloodstream does not necessarily constitute an exigent circumstance sufficient to bypass the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. Thus, if a DUI suspect does not consent to a blood test, the police will likely have to obtain a search warrant, issued only upon a showing of probable cause to believe the suspect is under the influence of a detectable drug. The Court noted, however, that the natural dissipation of alcohol may support a finding of exigency in a specific case, where other factors, such as the required procedures for obtaining a warrant and the availability of a judge, may affect the timeframe significantly.

In 2014 the Nevada Supreme Court has only considered one case, Byars vs. State of Nevada, based on the new ruling of the Supreme Court's McNeely decision. While the facts of the Byars case are not the typical DUI scenario, the result was still important.

In the Byars case the Defendant was involved in a routine traffic stop, where he admitted that he had been using marijuana. The officer requested that he submit to a blood test, and Byar objected. Nevertheless, he accompanied the officer to the hospital, and it was not until his arrival at the hospital that Byar began to become physically aggressive and had to be restrained while a blood sample was taken, and eventually showed that he had indeed used marijuana.

Byar argued that the blood test results should be excluded. The Nevada Supreme Court, after a lengthy analysis of the US Supreme Court case, agreed and adopted the language of the McNeely decision where they stated, "we conclude that the natural dissipation of THC from Byars' blood did not, standing alone, create exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless blood draw." The opinion went on to state, "[w]e further conclude that NRS 484C.160(7) is unconstitutional because it permits officers to use force to take a suspect's blood without a warrant, valid consent, or another exception to the warrant requirement."

Given the new developments in the law, it is important that residents know their rights. Drivers suspected of committing a DUI are required to either consent to a blood draw, or the officer is required to obtain a lawfully executed search warrant. If you think your rights have been violated, contact the experienced DUI lawyers at Ace Law Group for your free consultation.

It's important to get the right attorney to defend your case for a DUI. If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI in the Las Vegas area, call our firm or fill out our free case evaluation today.

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