Matheson Law Office Discusses the Recent North Carolina DWI Case Involving a Warrantless Blood Draw

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This article covers a recent DWI case where the police took the defendants blood without consent or the backing of the courts for a warrant. The defendant later pressed charges against the state claiming the blood draw was in violation of his rights, but was overruled by the North Carolina Appellate Court.

Raleigh DUI Lawyers

Raleigh DWI Lawyers

The major controversy in question in this case is centered on whether or not it is a violation of a person’s rights to take a blood draw before securing a warrant from the courts.

A case recently heard in the North Carolina state Appellate Court record (case number COA13-627, Court of Record – N.C. Court of Appeals) brings into question the constitutionality of a warrant-less blood draw, which, in this case, occurred during a North Carolina DWI criminal investigation. The major controversy in question in this case is centered on whether or not it is a violation of a person’s rights to take a blood draw before securing a warrant from the courts. In this case, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the exigent circumstances of alcohol dissipation from the Driver's blood before a warrant could be obtained permitted the Police Officer to obtain the blood sample without first obtaining a warrant.

In a news article posted in StarNews Online by Adam Wagner on December 3, 2013, titled: Murder Conviction Upheld in DWI Case, the details of the news worthy case are laid out. As a result of Driving While Intoxicated, Daniel Brennick was the cause of a vehicular accident killing the driver of the other vehicle in addition to inflicting serious injuries to himself. Brennick was taken to the hospital due to serious injury and was scheduled to go into surgery upon arrival to the hospital. Due to the expected time in surgery, the Police Officer felt the delay of obtaining the blood sample after surgery would have been an obstruction for law enforcement officers in testing the blood for levels of impairing substances. Therefore, the arresting officers proceeded to take a blood draw without the consent of the defendant and without first obtaining a search warrant from the courts. As a result, Daniel Brennick moved to suppress the blood-alcohol concentration on the grounds the blood draw was a violation of his constitutional right against search or seizures without probable cause, falling under the Fourth amendment.

In coming to their decision, the court of record, the Court of Appeals, cited the United States Supreme Court of Missouri v. McNeely (case number 185 L. Ed. 2d 696, Court of Record - U.S. Supreme Court), which held that, except for a few exceptions, warrantless blood draws must be suppressed. In Missouri v. McNeely, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the dissipation of the alcohol in the Defendant’s blood stream was not a sufficient exigent circumstance to justify not first obtaining a warrant prior to drawing a defendant’s blood.

In this particular case, the Police Officer was relying on a North Carolina General Statute (N.C.G.S. 20-139.1(d1)) which allows for a warrantless blood draw due to exigent circumstances –in this case the dissipation of the blood alcohol concentration during the time it would take to obtain a warrant. "While it is understandable that the arresting officers are just attempting to do their jobs and collect evidence, rulings such as these impede upon a person’s constitutional and individual rights."
Attorney Moseley Matheson, a Raleigh DWI Lawyer, stated, “This case represents a deterioration of an individuals fundamental rights against unlawful searches. Certainly the state was concerned with procuring evidence that may deteriorate over time. However, a blood draw is one of several different means by which the state could prosecute their case. Therefore, it does not justify the subversion of the defendant’s constitutional rights. Due to the lack of probable cause or the possession of a warrant, the conclusion of this case portrays an obvious violation of the defendant’s fourth amendment right. Thus, further proving the need to know the constitutional and individual rights afforded to the citizens of both the state of North Carolina and the United States."

As a result of the serious implications this ruling has, it is likely that this case will be appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court. inding a balance between the fundamental rights of United States citizens and permitting the State to use the necessary resources to obtain evidence in criminal matters has always been difficult. While this case presently demonstrates an expansion on the State's rights, it is not likely that it will be the final word on the matter.

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