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