It’s one of the fundamental rights in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights that Americans have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. When law enforcement officers want to search you or your property, they typically must have probable cause and obtain a search warrant from a court unless one of a few narrow legal exceptions applies. When there is no probable cause for a search or no warrant, then established legal doctrine says that evidence obtained during that search shouldn’t be used against you.
The requirement for a warrant also is in place when police want to “search” your body by taking a blood sample when you’re suspected of driving under the influence. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a warrant is required when police want to take a blood sample without your consent in order to collect evidence that you were driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
If you consent to give a sample, no warrant is needed. But if you refuse to give a sample and police don’t get a warrant, an experienced Michigan OWI defense lawyer may be able to challenge the results of the sample and help you fight the drunk driving or drugged driving charge.
Implied Consent and OWI Tests
When you get a driver’s license in Michigan, under a doctrine called “implied consent” you agree that for the privilege of driving a vehicle you will consent to giving a sample for a chemical test when you are suspected of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Chemical tests usually take the form of breath or blood tests, and are intended to measure your blood alcohol concentration to determine if you have consumed alcohol and are over the .08 legal limit or the .17 “super drunk” or high BAC limit for purposes of charging you with an OWI. A blood test also may be used to determine if you have drugs in your body and might be impaired by the use of a controlled substance.
When you’re suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, a police officer typically will first ask you to take a breath test. If you refuse a breath test, then the officer likely will seek a warrant to get a sample of your blood to determine your BAC. If you’re suspected of drugged driving, the officer may request a blood sample, and if you do not consent to give one the officer may get a warrant to compel you to provide a sample.
Blood Test Warrants
In order to get a warrant, police are supposed to demonstrate to a judge that probable cause exists to suspect you of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If a judge grants the warrant, then police can compel you to give a blood sample.
However, if you are suspected of DUI because you got into an accident and required medical treatment, no warrant is required to test a blood sample that was drawn for medical treatment purposes. So if you got into an accident and were taken by ambulance to an emergency room, and the ER doctor ordered a blood test as part of your examination for treatment, if that test shows that your BAC was over the legal limit or that you had drugs in your system that impaired your driving, that information may be used as evidence against you.
How an OWI Defense Lawyer Can Help
If police compelled you to give a blood sample without getting a warrant, your constitutional rights may have been violated. When that happens, an experienced Michigan OWI defense lawyer can challenge the results of the blood test and try to prevent the test results from being used against you in court as evidence of your alleged OWI.
It’s also important to understand that just because police had the warrant to draw your blood doesn’t mean that the warrant was valid. Sometimes a warrant may be based on bad information, or may not contain all of the necessary information. When an invalid warrant is used to compel you to give a sample, your constitutional rights may have been violated. A skilled Michigan OWI defense lawyer will know how to read a warrant and look for the details that might indicate the warrant wasn’t valid at the time your blood sample was taken, and challenge the validity of the warrant and the evidence resulting from the warrant.
When a warrant is invalid, your DUI defense lawyer may be able to keep the evidence obtained through use of the warrant from being used in court — and that may increase your likelihood of getting your OWI or drugged driving charge dismissed or reduced.