The specific details of Fourth Amendment “search and seizure” law, as it relates to blood-alcohol content tests, has evolved significantly in the last few years. For a long time, law enforcement officers had a lot of latitude regarding the taking of blood from a suspected drunk driver, even without a search warrant. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that narrowed the leeway afforded to officers in obtaining blood draws from suspected drunk drivers. This change in the law provides more opportunity for DUI defendants to get the results of their blood tests excluded from evidence in their criminal cases. To make sure that you have the best defense possible, complete with the exclusion of all inadmissible evidence, make sure to work with an experienced San Francisco DUI attorney.
An example of this change in the law, and how it can help DUI defendants, was the case of Samuel, a man arrested for suspicion of DUI in San Mateo County on June 13, 2015. A CHP officer stopped a black Honda and detected the odor of alcohol from inside the car. Samuel underwent four field sobriety tests. He did not do well. The officer did a preliminary alcohol screening. The PAS test results ranged between .144 and .177. The officer arrested Samuel and took him to a nearby CHP station. There, Samuel’s blood was drawn.
At his trial, Samuel argued that the results of his blood test should be excluded from evidence as a result of an improper warrantless seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Samuel eventually won this argument in the Appellate Division. The key to Samuel’s success was the issue of consent. There are a few ways that law enforcement can perform a search or seizure of you or your possessions. One is if there are special circumstances, which the law calls “exigent circumstances.” The other is if you give the officer permission to do the search or seizure.
In Samuel’s case, the prosecution didn’t argue that there were exigent circumstances; the prosecution simply argued that the seizure complied with the Fourth Amendment because Samuel consented. The problem was that the evidence didn’t support this assertion. Even the arresting officer eventually testified that Samuel didn’t explicitly consent to the blood draw. Samuel’s behavior, according to the officer, was more an act of his “submitting” to the blood draw, as opposed to his affirmatively selecting to undergo the blood test.
The law says that this isn’t good enough. In order for consent to be legally valid, it must be “the product of … free will and not a mere submission to an express or implied assertion of authority” by law enforcement. The evidence in Samuel’s case showed submission, but not consent freely given. That meant that the officer didn’t have valid consent, and Samuel was entitled to have the blood test results excluded.
The skilled San Francisco DUI defense professionals at Uthman Law Office have been providing reliable service to our criminal defense clients for many years. Attorney David Uthman has over 20 years of experience as a litigation attorney and almost a decade of experience as a police officer. Put our experience to work for you in your DUI case. Call us today at (415) 556-9200 to schedule your FREE initial consultation to get the help you need.
More blog posts:
How a Lack of ‘Free and Voluntary’ Consent Can Help You Get Your Blood Test Results Thrown Out of Your California DUI Case, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, Feb. 27, 2018
The Risks You Take When You Handle Your DMV Driver’s License Suspension Case On Your Own Without a San Francisco Attorney, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, Feb. 16, 2018