In 2013, the United States Supreme Court issue an opinion drastically impacting law enforcement’s investigation of DUIs and specifically vehicular assault and vehicular homicide cases. The opinion stated that it was a violation of the Fourth Amendment for law enforcement to force a blood draw on a person to determine alcohol or drug consumption without a warrant or a valid warrant exception. Before this opinion, there were many laws, including law in Colorado, which stated that law enforcement could force a warrantless blood draw to determine alcohol or drug consumption as long as certain factors existed, such as an accident involving serious bodily injury or death. As a result of the United States Supreme Court opinion, a law enforcement officer now must first obtain a warrant before forcing a blood draw or show that, based upon the totality of the situation, exigent circumstances that would prevent the officer from obtaining a warrant.
Subsequent to the opinion issued by the United States Supreme Court, an appeal went to the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado. In that appeal, the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office asked the court to adopt a rule where the existence of exigent circumstances would be based solely upon the length of time required to secure a search warrant, instead of the totality of the situation. This rule would allow law enforcement to simply “assume” there was not enough time to obtain a warrant and then have cause justification to perform a warrantless blood draw.
The Colorado Supreme Court refused to adopt this rule. The court held it was bound to follow the rule set by the United States Supreme Court and, therefore, the proper analysis for determining whether exigent circumstances exist is only done by considering the totality of the circumstances, not simply the amount of time required to obtain a warrant.
This ruling provides substantial protection for people suspected of committing alcohol related driving offenses. It is important for people suspected of these offenses to seek the assistance of an experienced Colorado DUI lawyer to help protect their rights. Contact Steven Louth Law Offices at (303)442-2297.