Court Discusses Warrantless Blood Tests in Florida DUI Cases

Generally, in most DUI cases, the State will rely on the results of chemical testing to establish a defendant’s guilt. Although Florida’s implied consent law dictates that all motorists suspected of DUI consent to submit to breath or urine tests, absent exigent circumstances, the police must obtain warrants to conduct blood tests. If an officer compels a person to submit to a blood test without a warrant, the test might constitute an unreasonable search, rendering the results of the test inadmissible. In a recent Florida opinion arising out of a DUI case, the court discussed the factors weighed in determining if the police unlawfully conducted a blood test. If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is wise to speak to a knowledgeable Florida DUI defense lawyer regarding your rights.

The Defendant’s Arrest

It is reported that the defendant was involved in a motor vehicle collision. When police arrived at the scene of the accident, they suspected that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol and asked her to submit to field sobriety testing. She did poorly on the tests she completed and stated she had a knee injury. When asked if she consumed alcohol, she reported drinking rum and coke earlier in the day.

Allegedly, the police transported the defendant to a hospital and asked her to provide a blood sample. She refused the request on two occasions. After the investigating officer determined that a passenger in the other vehicle involved in the crash died from his injuries, he directed a nurse to conduct an involuntary blood draw, which showed that three hours after the accident, the defendant’s BAC was 0.13%. The defendant was charged with DUI manslaughter, and prior to her trial, moved to suppress the results of the blood test. The court denied her motion, and the jury issued a guilty verdict, after which she appealed.

Warrantless Blood Draws

In Florida, the law clearly states that to comply with the Fourth Amendment, the police must obtain either consent or a warrant for a blood draw, unless some other exception to the warrant requirement applies. One exception to the requirement arises when the exigencies of the circumstances make the police’s needs so compelling that conducting a search without a warrant is objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

The State bears the burden of proving that such an exception to the warrant requirement applies. In the subject case, the court declined to adopt the State’s reasoning that exigent circumstances exist in all drunk driving cases, finding that such thinking contradicted established law. The court ultimately determined that the State failed to meet its burden of proof and vacated the defendant’s conviction.

Consult a Seasoned Florida DUI Defense Attorney

DUI defendants have numerous rights, and if the police violate their rights during the investigation of an alleged offense, any evidence obtained during the process might be precluded from use at trial. If you are accused of a DUI crime, you should consult an attorney to discuss your potential defenses. The seasoned Florida DUI defense lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can advise you of your options and help you to seek a just result. We can be contacted through our form online or at 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.

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