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Supreme Court Changes law on Delaware DUI Blood Tests

The U.S. Supreme Court changes the law on DUI blood tests in Delaware DUI cases. The United States Supreme Court appears to have modified its position on whether a police officer needs to obtain a warrant before subjecting a Defendant to a blood test in DUI cases.

Previously, the Supreme Court decided in Schmerber v. California, that it was permissible to obtain a DUI blood test without a warrant. Where an officer believed that he was facing an emergency situation and the delay caused by getting a warrant threatened the destruction of evidence, a police officer was permitted to take a DUI Blood test without getting a warrant. This was interpreted in Delaware and almost every other state to mean that a blood test could be taken in any DUI case if there was probable cause to believe the defendant was guilty of DUI. However, in Missouri v. McNeely, decided in the Spring of 2013, the Court upheld a lower court decision finding otherwise. The McNeely Court found that in the case of a routine DUI investigation where there were no factors other than the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood, a warrantless DUI blood test taken without consent violated the defendant’s right to be free from unreasonable searches of his person.

What does this means in a Delaware DUI case? It means that in a routine DUI investigation, a police officer can no longer execute a warrantless DUI blood test unless the officer obtains consent. If the police officer is unable to obtain consent, she will be required to secure a warrant from the Court. This is a monumental shift from the previous understanding of the law in DUI blood cases. Previously Delaware routinely upheld warrantless blood tests based on the understanding that police officers could always get a blood test as long as there was probable cause for DUI.

As a result of this ruling, DUI law is now consistent with the Constitutional requirements understood in other areas of search and seizure law. However, the Court did leave room for discussion by saying that future cases could be evaluated on a case by case bases. It left room for future Courts to look at the facts and circumstances in each case to determine whether emergency circumstances exist. However, on the question of whether the sole factor justifying an emergency is the dissipation of blood alcohol, the Court ruled this factor alone is insufficient to justify a warrantless blood test.

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