The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) returned from its winter recess and announced its decision not to review a case appealed by Colorado prosecutors regarding warrantless blood tests in suspected DUI cases. This means that the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in the case, Colorado v. Schaufele, will stand.
History of the Case
In 2012, Jack Schaufele caused a collision in an intersection and law enforcement officers suspected that he was under the influence of alcohol. Schaufele was transported to a hospital where he fell asleep or otherwise became unconscious. While he was unconscious, an officer ordered Schaufele’s blood to be drawn in order to determine his blood alcohol content (BAC), which came back as approximately three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent. The officer never tried to obtain a search warrant for the blood test.
Schaufele was charged and went to trial on charges of driving under the influence, vehicular assault, and other charges. However, both a Colorado state judge and then the Colorado Supreme Court agreed that evidence of the blood test results should be excluded because it was obtained in violation of Schaufele’s 4th Amendment rights since there was no valid search warrant. The 4th Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure.
2013 Supreme Court Decision
The decisions of the Colorado judges were likely influenced by the 2013 SCOTUS decision in the case Missouri v. McNeely. In this case, the Court decided that a blood test was a “search” under the 4th Amendment and therefore required a valid search warrant unless there were exigent circumstances. The Court determined that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream was not adequate to create an exigent circumstance and allow a warrantless blood test. Instead the Court stated many other factors must be considered by law enforcement officers to justify a warrantless blood test.
The Colorado Supreme Court decision to exclude the blood test evidence in Schaufele’s case was in line with the McNeely precedent. However, the Colorado prosecutors appealed the decision, asking SCOTUS to once again review the issue and take the position that, because alcohol dissipates in the bloodstream, police officers should be allowed to force a blood test if there is not the opportunity or time to obtain a search warrant. Thirteen additional states joined in the appeal, requesting that SCOTUS overturn the Colorado decision.
However, the Colorado decision in Schaufele will stand now that SCOTUS has declined to review the appeal. This means that, at least for the time being, the decision in McNeely holds precedent and police must obtain a warrant prior to a blood test unless truly exigent circumstances exist.
Contact an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Case
DUI cases may have many complicated issues, including 4th Amendment violations and much more. You always want to ensure you have an experienced DUI defense attorney who will be able to identify all possible legal defenses and aggressively defend your case. If you are facing DUI charges, call the Denver office of the Tiftickjian Law Firm for assistance as soon as possible.