Supreme Court: DUI Blood Test Requires Warrant

Last week the United States Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to require a blood draw in DUI investigations, but ruled that breath tests do not require a warrant.  The Court was not unanimous in its decision.  Some of the Justices feel a warrant should not be required at all, while others feel a warrant should be required for both a blood and a breath test.

Fourth Amendment: Search & Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable search and seizure.  A search is unreasonable if a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area to be searched or item to be seized.  If there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, then the law requires a warrant before the place can be searched or item seized.  A warrant is a legal document approved by a judge that gives police permission to search and/or seize.  There are a few limited exceptions to the warrant requirement.  If an exception applies, then no warrant is needed and police may search or seize without court permission.

The Supreme Court decided that a blood draw is a search under the law and, as such, a warrant is required.  However, a breath test is not a search and, therefore, does not require a warrant.  The Court distinguished between the two because a blood draw is more intrusive than a breath test.

Colorado’s DUI Express Consent Law

Time will tell how this ruling impacts Colorado’s DUI laws.  Colorado has an express consent law that says all people who drive in Colorado have given their consent to a blood or breath test when a police officer has probable cause to believe a driver has committed a DUI.  Consent is one exception to the warrant requirement, which means if a person consents to a search or seizure, no warrant is required.