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The Supreme Court has turned down a request from prosecutors in Colorado to reconsider the use of warrantless blood draws as evidence in drunk driving cases.

The prosecutors’ request stemmed from the case of Jack Schaufele. While Schaufele lay unconscious in a Colorado hospital following a car crash, a police officer had the medical staff take a blood sample to check his BAC. The results showed Schaufele was almost three times the legal limit. However, a judge excluded the results of the test at trial because the officer had not obtained, or even tried to obtain, a search warrant.

Timeliness at Issue When Collecting DUI Evidence

The judge’s decision was later affirmed by the Colorado Supreme Court, which cited the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Missouri v. McNeely. In that case the court upheld the suppression of a DUI suspect’s blood draw that was taken without a warrant. The majority of justices dismissed arguments that the body’s rapid metabolism of alcohol inherently creates exigent circumstances that allow for a blanket exception to the 4th Amendment and requirements to obtain a warrant for blood tests.

State Drunk Driving Laws Impacted by Ruling

The court’s 2013 ruling has impacted DUI laws across the country. Last fall, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the state’s implied consent statue wasn’t enough to justify warrantless blood draws. Likewise, the Texas Supreme Court struck down that state’s “no refusal” law, which permitted law enforcement to collect blood from suspected drunk drivers who refused to be tested.

Thirteen other states supported Colorado’s request for the Supreme Court to take the case, arguing that the requirement for a warrant cripples efforts to prosecute and punish drunk drivers. Has your jurisdiction enacted different procedures in order to fast track the approval of search warrants in DUI arrests?

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Alison Betts

Alison Betts

Alison Betts has over 15 years of experience as a communications professional and researcher in corporate, nonprofit, and high education settings. Betts joined AMS in 2013 and is currently a Senior Manager of Marketing & Public Relations. Prior to coming to AMS, she held research and teaching positions at universities in Arizona and Colorado. Betts has also served as a public relations professional and grant writer in the nonprofit sector, where she saw first-hand the devastating impact of alcohol and substance abuse on families and communities. Betts holds an MA in English from the University of Colorado and a Master’s in Applied Communications from the University of Denver.