The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects all Texas residents from “unreasonable” searches and seizures. This includes mandatory testing of one’s blood following a drunk driving arrest. If you do not consent to a blood test–and you always have the right to refuse–then police must obtain a warrant before drawing or testing your blood.
But do the police need separate warrants for both the blood draw and the actual testing? The Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas recently addressed this issue. The case before the court, State v. Morgan, involves a defendant arrested on suspicion of a second DWI offense. Police obtained a search warrant to take a sample of the defendant’s blood at the time of his arrest in December 2017. But the actual analysis of the sample was not performed until March 2019.
Before a trial court, the defendant moved to suppress the results of the blood test. He argued that the officers should have obtained a second warrant to conduct the test. The judge agreed and granted the motion to suppress, prompting the prosecution to file an immediate appeal with the Fifth District.
And the appeals court sided with the prosecution and reversed the trial court’s decision. The Fifth District explained this case turned on the application of a 2019 decision from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), State v. Martinez. In that case, the CCA said a defendant maintained a Fourth Amendment privacy interest in “blood drawn for medical purposes.” This meant police needed to obtain a separate warrant to analyze or test such blood samples.
But Martinez dealt with a blood sample that was drawn by a health care provider without the need for a warrant. In contrast, the police in this case did obtain an initial warrant to draw the blood so. Having done so, the Fifth District said there was no constitutional reason to require a second warrant to actually perform the analysis.
The Fifth District further rejected the defendant’s view that the amount of time that elapsed between the blood draw and the analysis–well over a year–necessitated a new warrant. Under Texas law, a search warrant must typically be executed within three days. But this merely refers to the deadline for “seizing the evidence, not analyzing it,” the appeals court said. And there was no legal authority in Texas that required the police to analyze a lawfully seized blood sample within any particular time frame.
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The Fifth District’s ruling illustrates how the legal system is often unforgiving when it comes to DWI defendants. If you find yourself charged with drunk driving, it is imperative that you retain an experienced DWI defense attorney who can zealously represent your interests in the court of law. If you need help, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston, League City or Houston today to speak with an attorney about your case.