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Warrant required to obtain blood for drunk driving test

Evidence is a vital part of either proving or disproving that a crime has occurred in the state of New York and beyond. In drunk driving cases one piece of evidence that is sometimes used to prosecute the case is the blood alcohol level. This is generally obtained one of two ways; either through a breath test in which a Breathalyzer is utilized, or in the alternative via a blood test. Recently, the United States Supreme Court clarified the circumstances under which the latter can be obtained in connection with a suspected DWI.

The case upon which the court's decision is based concerned a man who was pulled over by law enforcement after it was determined that he was speeding. According to the officer who pulled him over and ultimately arrested him, the man displayed many of the characteristics typically found in individuals who are intoxicated. When he would not submit to a breath test, the officer transported him to a hospital where blood was drawn and a test performed which indicated that his blood alcohol level to be 0.15, well above the legal limit.

In most cases, in the absence of permission from a drunk driving suspect, it is required that a search warrant be obtained before blood can be drawn. Because a warrant was not procured in this instance, a court at the state level deemed the evidence was not admissible. The US Supreme Court agreed with this indicating that the dissipation of the alcohol in the blood as time passes does not qualify as an emergency in which a warrant would be unnecessary.

Source: New York Times, "Court Rules Warrants Are Needed to Draw Blood in Drunken-Driving Cases," Adam Liptak, April 17, 2013

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