When Blood Evidence Collected Without a Warrant Should Be Excluded in a California DUI Trial

The U.S. and California Constitutions protect citizens from unreasonable searches. That protection can be especially important if you have been accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol. If the police have obtained your blood without first getting your informed consent or a valid search warrant, the blood-alcohol content test results from that blood may be inadmissible as a result of an improper warrantless search. In your DUI case, the difference between a conviction and an acquittal may be the blood evidence you do or don’t get suppressed. To make sure that your rights are protected and that you have a strong defense on your behalf, make sure you retain skilled San Francisco DUI defense counsel to fight for your rights.

An example of how readily such a situation can occur was the case of Matthew from Contra Costa County. Matthew, after allegedly finishing a beer and a golf game, traveled to visit his girlfriend. After a half-hour at the woman’s home, the pair set out together. Eventually, Matthew crashed near Concord. When law enforcement officers responded, one allegedly detected a “slight odor” of alcohol coming from Matthew. A second officer questioned the driver and allegedly noticed a “moderate odor” of alcohol on Matthew’s breath. His eyes were bloodshot and watery, according to the officer.

An ambulance took Matthew to the hospital for treatment. While the man was there, hospital staff drew his blood twice. The first time, his blood-alcohol level was 0.148. The second time, 77 minutes later, it was 0.11. At no time in the process was a search warrant obtained for Matthew’s blood.

At the driver’s driving-under-the-influence trial, he asked the judge to exclude the blood-alcohol content evidence. His argument was that the police should have gotten a warrant, that they did not, and that, as a result, the blood-alcohol content results should not be admitted into evidence.

The court of appeal agreed with Matthew that the police should have gotten a warrant. The use of Matthew’s blood technically qualified as a warrantless search. The law says that law enforcement may only conduct warrantless searches in situations like this when there are what’s called “exigent circumstances” present. “Exigent circumstances” essentially means an emergency situation that requires immediate action.

In this case, there were no exigent circumstances. There was only a patient who acquiesced to a phlebotomist taking his blood and a police officer who thought, mistakenly, that the patient’s acquiescence to the phlebotomist amounted to consent that eliminated the need to obtain a warrant. It was not valid consent, it did not remove the requirement to obtain a warrant, and the evidence should have been excluded at trial.

For the useful advice and skillful representation your case deserves, consult the experienced San Francisco DUI defense lawyers at Uthman Law Office. Our team has been providing effective representation to our DUI 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 knowledge of the law and the system to work for you. Call us today at (415) 556-9200 to schedule your FREE initial consultation to get the help you need.

More blog posts:

The Limits of Consent in a California DUI Case and How Those Limits May Entitle You to the Suppression of Test Results, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, April 12, 2018

How the Fourth Amendment May Help You Keep a Warrantless Blood Test’s Results out of Your California DUI Case, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 6, 2018

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