Georgia DUI Blood Cases

Can The Government Take My Blood for DUI?

This section addresses the question of how law enforcement can legally obtain an individual’s blood in the context of a DUI arrest. Generally speaking, a law enforcement agent may obtain a person’s blood in three ways:

  • Pursuant to a lawful search warrant;
  • The presence of an emergency circumstance; and
  • Through that person’s consent
  • Search Warrant

“A suspect’s right under the Fourth Amendment to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the compelled withdrawal of blood, and the extraction of blood is a search within the meaning of the Georgia Constitution.” Williams v. State, 296 Ga. 817, 819 (2015). There are generally two types of searches, those with a search warrant and those without. Warrantless searches are per se unreasonable, “subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions.” Id.

Therefore, if a police officer can obtain a valid search warrant for your blood, then they are entitled to draw your blood for purposes of investigating a DUI. It is important to note that even though your blood may have been drawn legally; there are still viable defenses to blood analysis (discussed in section below).  

Emergency Circumstances

One of the “specifically established and well-delineated exceptions” to the search warrant requirement is the presence of exigent [emergency] circumstances. But what constitutes an emergency circumstance? The answer is . . . it depends.

Georgia case law used to say that because intoxicants naturally dissipate in the body over time, this fact alone provided the exigency (emergency). Essentially, this meant that because the evidence of intoxication would disappear over time, the police would be prevented from obtaining that evidence if there was not enough time to get a search warrant. The Supreme Court of Georgia later adopted the United States Supreme Court’s decision rejecting this line of thought. The law now states that just because you have alcohol or another intoxicant in your system, that fact by itself does not create an exigency (emergency) justifying the drawing of a person’s blood. Instead, the court held, “whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable [is to] be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances.”[1]

The resulting rule is that rather than automatically being entitled to drawing blood just because intoxicants naturally dissipate over time, courts will review police conduct on a case by case basis to determine whether an emergency situation exists sufficient to justify a blood draw.[2]

Defending Blood Test Cases

Analysis of a DUI suspect’s blood for intoxicants (alcohol or drugs) is considered to be the most reliable method of obtaining an accurate reading of a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). This scientific procedure is designed to determine the amount of alcohol present in a person’s blood at a given time.

The BAC results from a blood analysis can be inaccurate, however, for a number of reasons:

  • Human error in performing the blood testing;
  • Flawed preservation and handling techniques of the blood sample;
  • Improperly maintained or malfunctioning machines which measure results;
  • Testing of blood plasma rather than whole blood can produce higher BAC readings;
  • Trauma or other incidents suffered by hospitalized suspect may affect BAC readings

Peach State Lawyers have been trained to attack the following aspects of blood test cases:

  • Qualifications of the person who drew the blood;
  • Qualifications of the analyst;
  • Whether the analyst followed laboratory procedures;
  • Whether the machine measuring results was working properly;
  • Whether the blood sample itself flowed through the proper chain of custody; and
  • Whether the analyst is required to testify

If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI, do not hesitate to contact our office. Our highly skilled and experienced attorneys will work tirelessly to resolve your case. Feel free to call us 24 hours a day at 404.581.0999.

[1]  Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U. S. ___ (133 S.Ct. 1552, 1563, 185 LE2d 696) (2013)

[2] An potential example of such an emergency case is where there is a car accident and a DUI suspect is not located for several hours and after the suspect is found the police believe they do not have time to obtain a warrant; but they know if they do not get a blood sample soon, the possible evidence of intoxication will be lost.

 

by Casey Cleaver

Privacy Rights- Carpenter vs. United States

by John Lovell

Last month, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the privacy rights of individuals. The Government, without a warrant or a showing of probable cause, issued an order to a cell phone company to provide Timothy Carpenter’s cell site data. The Government sought to gather the extensive records, including the location of Carpenter’s phones. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, found that Mr. Carpenter had a privacy right in his phone records. For the Government to seize these records, the Government needed to present to a magistrate a warrant based on sworn testimony establishing probable cause. The Court noted that a significant factor causing the War for Independence was Britain’s use of warrantless searches … Americans have never been fond of warrantless searches!

Do not be quick to conclude that this ruling makes it necessary for the police to obtain a warrant for all types of stored records. Your privacy could still be affected. Previously, the Court has held that a warrant is not necessary to obtain records of the numbers called by a cell phone-not the content of the calls but just the fact that the “target” phone called particular numbers at particular times. The Court has also held that other stored records such as bank records may be obtained without a warrant. A couple of years ago, the Court ruled that a warrant is required to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. The critical distinction that the Court has made is in information that reveals the location of the subject. We have a greater expectation of privacy in where we are than is more typical records such as numbers called and even bank records. Protect your privacy rights today and call Peachstate Lawyer for your FREE consultation!

Search Warrants and Social Media in Georgia Criminal Cases

by Mary Agramonte

Social media has become, for many of us, a central part of our lives. We use Facebook to share and view photos of friends and family, and even to catch up on daily news. We use Snapchat to send live photos or short clips and videos to those in our circle. Instagram exists to view photos of friends and strangers, and even to gain inspiration for food, travel, and lifestyle.

These social networking sites are used and enjoyed by people in all walks of life. Consequently, as the use by the general population increases, so does use for those engaged in drug dealing, gang activity, and other criminal acts. For this reason, social media and apps once thought to be private are becoming the key pieces of evidence as law enforcement is obtaining this information through search warrants. Search warrant allow police to conduct searches of people and their belongings for evidence of a crime and they are now being used to gain entry into your Facebook, Snapchat, and other sites.

Snapchat has recently come out to say that 350 million Snaps are sent every single day. Before these fleeting photos are opened, they exist on Snapchat’s server awaiting for the person on the other end to open it.  Some unopened Snaps, they’ve admitted, have been handed over to law enforcement through search warrants.

Facebook is no different and law enforcement is using the site regularly to investigate crimes. While a law enforcement agency is free to look at your public site, they are even able to obtain a search warrant even for the private aspects of your account. A recent case in the 11th Circuit, United States v. Blake, involved search warrants for email and Facebook accounts.  Law enforcement in Blake sought essentially every piece of data on the person’s Facebook account. The court stated that the search warrants were overly broad and stated they must still be specific and limited in scope. The data was still fair evidence despite this, as the officers relied on the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule, and the State was allowed to use the evidence from their Facebook account against them.

There tends to be a false sense of privacy for those engaged in sending Snaps, Facebooking, or Instagramming. These ‘private’ sites and photos can and do become to subject of search warrants in law enforcement investigations, and the biggest piece of evidence in a case might just end up being something you posted  or sent with the belief it would remain private.