United States Supreme Court: A Warrant Required for Blood Draw of Drunk Driving Arrestees

The United States Supreme Court issued a decision on June 23, 2016 that impacts citizens who have been arrested for DUI/OWI (“drunk driving”) and from whom the police want a blood sample.  “Drunk driving” involves proof that establishes the alcohol concentration of a person’s breath or blood.  Any blood or breath test is a “search” and must be therefore be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  What is “reasonable” always depends upon a balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the government to maintain order.

There are also exceptions to the warrant requirement.  One such exception is a search incident to an arrest. 

In Birchfield v. North Dakota, __ U.S. __ (2016) the US Supreme Court found that, while no warrant is necessary for a breath test, the police do need one for a blood test unless a separate exception to the warrant requirement exists.  The Birchfield Court also held that criminal penalties cannot attach for the refusal to submit to a blood test. Indiana does not make it a crime to refuse to submit to a blood test; Indiana uses civil penalties (the loss of a driver’s license, fines) under its implied consent law instead.  

Birchfield could be an important case for people who find themselves under arrest for DUI/OWI and who are facing a blood test.  Those who have been arrested for DUI/OWI and had their blood drawn should seek advice from an attorney to see how the Birchfield decision might impact your defense. Click the “Schedule Now” button in the contact window alongside this post, or call Jill Acklin at 317-848-6187.