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Jul. 5 2016


Posted By: Sami Azhari

The United States Supreme Court ruled that police must generally obtain a warrant before subjecting a drunken-driving suspect to a blood test. The vote was 8-to-1. Tyler McNeely was pulled over late at night after a state trooper observed him driving erratically. When McNeely refused to take a Breathalyzer test, the officer drove him to a local hospital and ordered blood drawn for an alcohol test. The officer did not seek a warrant, even though he had done so in previous cases. The state of Missouri contended that because alcohol naturally dissipates in the bloodstream, each passing moment means valuable evidence is being lost, and so a warrant is never required for a blood draw. The Supreme Court disagreed, noting that in most circumstances there is adequate time to get a warrant.

A forcible blood draw was a rare occurrence in DUI investigations in the state of Illinois. In all other cases, police officers follow the procedures for voluntary chemical testing. During a forcible blood draw, the police were authorized to restrain the suspect for taking blood. The law in Illinois concerning forcible blood draws is Section 11-501.2 of the Vehicle Code. The statute says that a police officer may forcibly draw blood from a suspect if he or she has probable cause to believe that the suspect was involved in a motor vehicle accident involving personal injury or death while driving under the influence of alcohol.

Specifically, the police officer must have probable cause to believe the following:

  • A motor vehicle has caused personal injury or death to another.
  • The suspect was driving or in actual physical control of the motor vehicle.
  • The injury was type A on the traffic accident report.
  • The suspect was under the influence

At certain times throughout the year, Illinois cities will launch what are called “no refusal” efforts. These pushes to arrest drunk drivers call for a sharp increase in the amount of law enforcement officers who are focused solely on finding alleged drunk drivers and charging them with a DUI. Illinois law enforcement agencies have used “no refusal” weekends over the past few years to make their jobs easier. The main goal of “no refusal” weekends is to close an unintended loophole in Illinois law. Any motorist who is pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in Illinois has two options: refuse or adhere to a chemical test in the form of blood, urine, or breath. A “no refusal” weekend means that any person stopped and detained on suspicion of drunk driving will be requested to take a breath or blood test for the presence of alcohol, and if the person refuses, he or she can be pressured to take the test with the threat of a search warrant. On “no refusal” weekends, prosecutors, a judge and a phlebotomist are on call to draft search warrants for blood samples from the suspect. Any suspect who continued to refuse to submit to chemical testing after being presented with a search warrant likely would have faced additional sanctions. Essentially, the “no refusal” weekend allow for a forcible draw by way of an immediate search warrant, because the statute limits a forcible blood draw to very specific situations, rendering the evidence constitutionally suspect.

Sami is experienced at defending charges of driving under the influence as well as other criminal and traffic matters. For assistance with a traffic violation or criminal matter, please feel free to contact him at (312) 626-2871.