The answer to this question, as is the case with most questions regarding the law, is that “it depends.”
When investigating a driver suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, police have a variety of investigatory techniques available to them. In addition to simply observing a suspect or conducting Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, they also may request that a suspect submit to chemical testing of his or her blood, breath, or urine. Because these tests produce quantitative results, they tend to be less easily invalidated than qualitative observation regarding a suspect’s appearance or demeanor. As a result, law enforcement often aggressively seeks chemical testing of a DUI suspect in order to more easily secure a conviction.
Chemical testing as a search
There is no question that collecting a blood sample from a person suspected of DUI constitutes a legal search. The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution1 prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and searches and seizures conducted without a warrant are presumed to be unreasonable. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, including one for “exigent circumstances.” Exigent circumstances exist when there is an imminent danger of the loss or destruction of evidence.
The state of Missouri recently tried use the exigent circumstances exception to justify a warrantless blood draw of a person suspected of DUI, arguing that the natural dissipation of blood in a person’s blood stream amounted to the destruction of evidence valuable to a DUI investigation. The case, known as Missouri v. McNeely2, ultimately was appealed to the United States Supreme Court3. The Supreme Court disagreed with Missouri’s argument, holding that while in some cases a warrantless blood draw may be justified, the dissipation of alcohol in a person’s blood stream does not amount to a per se exigent circumstance.
Was a warrant required in my case?
If you were subjected to a warrantless blood draw or another form of chemical testing, it may be inadmissible under the current Supreme Court case law. If it is, the state will likely be forced to drop any case that it has initiated against you. Additionally, there may be other defenses available if in the absence of a violation of the warrant requirement. As a result, it is extremely important for anyone accused of DUI to discuss their case with an experienced Chicago DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.
Contact a Chicago criminal defense attorney today to schedule a free consultation
Attorney Nenye Uche is a former prosecutor who has dedicated his career to helping Illinois residents accused of crimes. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at (888) 251-4438.