DUI Upheld Despite Lack Of Search Warrant

This case represents one if he many new opinions interpreting the US Supreme Court case requiring a warrant when a DUI suspect refuses a blood test.

Harris was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (Veh. Code, § 23152, subd. (a)) and being under the influence of methamphetamine (Health & Saf. Code, § 11550, subd. (a)). His motion to suppress evidence was denied (People v. Harris (2014) 225 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1) and he appealed. Held: Affirmed. Harris claimed on appeal that submission to a chemical test under California’s implied consent law (Veh. Code, §§ 23612, subd. (a)(1)(A), 13353, 23612, subd. (a)(1)(D)) does not constitute valid consent to a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. In Missouri v. McNeeley (2013) 133 S.Ct. 1552, the Court held that the dissipation rate of alcohol in the blood does not constitute an exigent circumstance justifying a warrantless blood draw and that this had been the law since Schmerber v. California (1966) 384 U.S. 757. In McNeeley and Schmerber, where the defendants refused to take chemical tests, the Court did not decide whether a defendant’s submission pursuant to a state’s implied consent law constituted a reasonable search. Here, after being advised of the adverse consequences of refusing to consent to a chemical test, Harris said “okay” and allowed his blood to be drawn at the jail. “The fact that a motorist is told he will face serious consequences if he refuses to submit to a blood test does not, in itself, mean that his submission was coerced.” Harris’ “free and voluntary submission to a blood test, after receiving an advisement under the implied consent law, constitutes actual consent to a blood draw under the Fourth Amendment.”

The court found that even if the blood draw violated the Fourth Amendment, the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies. Citing Davis v. United States (2011) 131 S.Ct. 2419, the Court of Appeal held that even if the warrantless blood draw in this case violated the Fourth Amendment, the good faith exception applied because officers acted in objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent. Prior to McNeeley, California cases interpreted Schmerber to recognize the dissipation rate of alcohol in the blood as an exigent circumstance.

The blood draw was conducted in a reasonable manner. Harris also claimed his blood was drawn in an unreasonable manner in the jail. The key inquiry is whether the manner in which Harris’ blood was drawn deviated so far from medical practices to render it unconstitutional. There was no evidence that Harris’ blood draw in the jail by a trained phlebotomist increased the danger he would suffer unreasonable pain or risk of infection. Under the totality of the circumstances, the method used to extract his blood was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. (Thanks CCAP)

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