Supreme Court: No DUI Blood Draws Without a Warrant or Consent

Posted by James Ferguson | Nov 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

The video of a nurse being arrested after refusing to allow a police officer to collect a blood sample from an unconscious patient has been making the rounds on social media and news outlets recently. In the viral video, Utah nurse Alex Wubbels explains to Officer Jeff Payne that she could not allow her patient's blood to be drawn without a warrant. The officer admits there is no warrant in place, then handcuffs Ms. Wubbels and detains her in a police car for “impeding an investigation.” Since the video's release, the Salt Lake City Police Department has apologized and placed Officer Payne on paid leave while they investigate the incident. Although Ms. Wubbels was released and not charged with a crime, the incident has sparked conversation about the legality of mandatory blood alcohol content testing for DUI suspects.

SCOTUS Ruling on Mandatory Blood Draws

The controversy comes just one year after the Supreme Court ruled against mandatory blood draws without a warrant. In Birchfield v. North Dakota, the Court held 7-1 that states can no longer prosecute DUI suspects for refusing a blood test. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion that warrantless blood tests on DUI suspects violates their Fourth Amendment protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” as well as their right to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

However, this ruling does not extend to mandatory breathalyzer tests. In the same decision, the Court upheld the constitutionality of warrantless breath tests to measure blood-alcohol content. They found that there is a compelling state need to administer BAC breath tests, while the physical intrusion of the test is negligible. In contrast, blood tests are physically intrusive, and the DNA sample reveals much more personal information than the breath test, which can only measure the blood-alcohol content. The blood test is also not particularly necessary, since breathalyzer tests are easier, cheaper, and widely available.

Mississippi Implied Consent Law

Like other states, Mississippi has an “implied consent” law which requires you to take a breath, blood, or urine test if you are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These tests are voluntary, and you are completely within your rights to refuse them. However, there are consequences for declining the chemical tests.

The penalty for refusing to take a chemical test is a 90-day suspension of your driver's license. If you have a prior DUI conviction, your driver's license suspension will last one year. This is obviously less than the penalties for a DUI conviction. However, it is still possible to be convicted for the DUI even without chemical test evidence.

Drunk Driving Arrest? Call a Mississippi DUI Lawyer Today

If you have been arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. James Robert Ferguson is an experienced DUI defense attorney who represents clients throughout the state of Mississippi. Contact us today to request a free and confidential consultation.

See related blog posts:
Are Sobriety Checkpoints Legal in Mississippi?
What to Do if Stopped by Police?

About the Author

James Ferguson

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. During college, I studied at East Tennessee State University, where I received a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice, which I then followed up with a Master's in Criminology from the University of Memphis. Before beginning my legal career, I worked as a Project Coordinator at the University of Memphis, where I assisted in training law enforcement officers in the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Training. The purpose of the project was to provide officers with the tools to deal with citizens in a state of mental crisis. I then went on to study law at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. During law school, I clerked with Victor W. Carmody, Jr., the lawyer who wrote the book on DUI law in Mississippi. I am currently licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi, and spend a majority of my time traveling the highways and biways of Mississippi defending those who have been charged with a DUI.


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