One of the most common questions we get from our clients who have been arrested for a Massachusetts OUI offense is whether the police officers were allowed to take their blood without a warrant. The determination as to whether a police officer can take a motorist’s blood when they are under suspicion of driving while intoxicated is complex, and has recently been the focus of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Recently, a Massachusetts appellate court had occasion to weigh in on the issue in an operating under the influence (OUI) case involving a warrantless blood draw.
The facts of the case can be briefly summarized. The defendant was involved in a car accident. When police arrived, they noticed he smelled of alcohol and that there were several open containers of alcohol in the car. After being Mirandized, the defendant told police that he had been drinking and was “guilty.” Police transported the defendant to the hospital, where the officers read the defendant a pre-written statement indicating that they intended to take a “chemical test” to determine the defendant’s blood-alcohol content. Nothing was mentioned of a blood draw. The test revealed that there was alcohol in the defendant’s blood, and he was charged with OUI.
The defendant argued that the officers’ warrantless blood draw was taken in violation of his constitutional rights because he never explicitly consented to a blood draw. Consent is an exception to the warrant requirement, so when a defendant consents to a blood draw, there is no need for a warrant. However, the question as to whether a defendant’s consent is valid is complex.
The court reviewed recent Supreme Court case law, noting the following:
- A blood draw requires either a warrant or the presence of exigent circumstances. Although alcohol naturally dissipates in a motorist’s blood, there will not always be exigent circumstances to conduct a blood draw in every OUI case.
- If there is no warrant or exigent circumstances, a blood draw is only permissible if the defendant provides actual, voluntary consent.
- Even when there are exigent circumstances, there is a statutory right to refuse testing in Massachusetts, requiring a motorist’s consent.
While both situation two and situation three above require consent, the court explained that the level of consent needed in each of these situations is different. For example, a verbal agreement to consent may be sufficient when exigent circumstances are present; however, the prosecution would need to show that a motorist’s verbal consent was actual and voluntary if no exigent circumstances were present.
Have You Been Arrested for a Boston OUI Offense?
If you have recently been arrested for a Boston OUI offense, contact Attorney Patrick J. Murphy for immediate assistance. Massachusetts DUI law is complex, and those facing these serious crimes deserve an attorney who is not only experienced but also up-to-date with all recent legal developments. Attorney Murphy has extensive knowledge when it comes to state and federal DUI law, and puts that knowledge behind each of his clients’ cases. To learn more about how Attorney Murphy can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a free consultation today.