California Court Upholds Warrantless Blood Test

In the last year courts have reviewed a litany of DUI cases in Kern County challenging the legality of blood tests done without a warrant or consent in drunk driving cases. This appeals court case is one of the decisions dealing with this very hot topic

Without obtaining a warrant, police Officer Olsen asked a nurse to draw blood from Youn, who had been taken to the hospital after causing an injury traffic accident. Blood tests revealed the presence of methamphetamine and cannabis. Youn’s motion to suppress the blood test evidence was denied and he pled no contest to driving under the influence causing injury (Veh. Code, § 23153, subd. (a)) as well as a drug misdemeanor (Health & Saf. Code, § 11550, subd. (a)). He appealed. Held: Affirmed. Warrantless searches are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment unless an exception, such as exigent circumstances, applies. When Youn’s blood was drawn in October 2011, California cases uniformly interpreted Schmerber v. California (1966) 384 U.S. 757, to allow warrantless blood draws in DUI cases based on the rate of dissipation of intoxicants in the bloodstream, creating an exigent circumstance. In Missouri v. McNeely (2013) 133 S.Ct. 1552, the United States Supreme Court repudiated the California interpretation of Schmerber, finding the natural dissipation rate of intoxicants did not categorically support a finding of exigency sufficient to allow a warrantless blood test. Rather, a totality of the circumstances test must be applied. Although Youn’s case is governed by McNeely, suppression of the blood test results was not required because Officer Olsen acted in “objectively reasonable reliance” on then-binding California cases interpreting Schmerber. CCAP


According to one Kern County Attorney, this is case represents one o9f many opinions that show the Courts will go to great lengths to uphold a serious DUI case, particularly when the facts show injury was caused.

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