The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that a provision of the state’s DUI law – involving blood samples – is unconstitutional.
We hear a lot about breathalyzers, blood draws, urine tests and the like, in the aftermath of a suspected DUI. If you did not know the law, you might wonder why anyone would agree to give a sample (blood, breath, etc.), since it might provide evidence that could seal your fate in a DUI case. Just refuse the test, and you’ll deny the police the ability to obtain the evidence. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.
The starting point is an Arizona law, A.R.S. 28-1321. That statute discusses “implied consent.” What it says is that by operating a motor vehicle in Arizona, you give your consent to these types of breath, blood and other tests to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs. It also says that if you refuse to give a sample, your driver’s license can be revoked, independent of the consequences of a DUI conviction. But what about situations where the person suspected of driving under the influence has been injured, is unconscious, or is otherwise incapable of refusing consent? The statute says that in those cases, the person is deemed not to have withdrawn their consent, which is just an awkward way of saying that the cops can go ahead and take their blood. Well, the Arizona Supreme Court looked at the law, and the majority of the justices decided that they didn’t like the idea.
In State v. Havatone, a driver was in a collision near Kingman, AZ. He was airlifted to a hospital in Las Vegas. While unconscious, a blood sample was taken. It showed a BAC in excess of 0.2. (DPS policy was to automatically arrange for a blood sample in these types of circumstances.).
Havatone was charged with extreme DUI, along with several other offenses. He made a motion to suppress the results of the blood test, arguing that it was a warrantless search which was prohibited under the Fourth Amendment. The trial court disagreed, and a jury found him guilty. Havatone appealed.
The Supreme Court found that under the facts of this case, the warrantless, nonconsensual blood draw was unconstitutional, and remanded the case for a new trial.
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