Is a warrant always needed for blood draws in DUI or OWI cases?

If the police fail to get a warrant or obtain a warrant based on inaccurate or incomplete information, it may be possible to get blood test evidence excluded from a trial.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys - Group

A Warrant is Required in Most Cases, But Not Every Time

The answer is no!! In the case of Missouri v McNeely, the United States Supreme Court decided that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood may support a finding of urgency in a specific case. Still, it does not do so in every case. Courts must evaluate each case to determine if a warrant was required to draw blood to be used as evidence in a DUI case.

Mr. McNeely was stopped for suspected of operating under the influence of alcohol. He refused to take the roadside breath test and, while on the way to the police station, indicated he would not take the test there. The police officer took him directly to the hospital, and blood was drawn from Mr. McNeely without a warrant. The blood results showed Mr. McNeely was intoxicated, and he was charged with operating while impaired. The defendant moved to suppress the test results, and the trial court agreed. The trial court determined that the “exigency exception to the warrant requirement did not apply because, apart from the fact that as in all intoxication cases, the defendant’s blood alcohol was being metabolized by his liver, there were no circumstances suggesting the officer faced an emergency in which he could not practicably obtain a warrant.”

So, depending on the level of urgency, a police officer may be able to have a blood draw in DWI cases without a warrant. Courts must now evaluate that question on a case-by-case basis.

Blood Draw in a DUI Case

In a DUI trial, the prosecutor will admit bodily alcohol content, measured with a breath or blood sample. For the blood test evidence to be admissible in Michigan, the prosecutor calls the person who drew the blood as a witness at trial. The witness must be able to testify to the following to establish the admissibility of blood evidence in DUI cases:

  • the blood sample was taken in a timely manner;
  • the sample was from a particular person;
  • the sample was taken by an authorized licensed physician, a medical technologist, or a registered nurse designated by a licensed physician;
  • sterilized instruments were used;
  • the sample was properly preserved and labeled;
  • proper methods of transportation were used;
  • procedures used in the test sample withdrawal were proper; and
  • the identity of the supervising person was established.

Gas chromatography is the method currently used in Michigan for testing blood evidence for cases involving DUI, OWI, operating while intoxicated, and operating with the presence of a controlled substance.

Facing OWI Charges in Michigan?

Attacking Blood Alcohol Evidence in DUI and OWI Cases

One of the most critical aspects of defending against an Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) charge is challenging the blood alcohol content (BAC) evidence presented by the prosecution. BAC results, typically obtained through breath, blood, or urine tests, are central evidence in OWI cases. However, these results are not infallible and can be contested by a skilled OWI defense attorney on various grounds.

  • Questioning the Testing Procedure: The accuracy of BAC tests largely depends on the correct administration of these tests. An experienced OWI defense attorney will scrutinize the procedures used during the testing process. This includes evaluating whether the testing equipment was properly calibrated and maintained and if the test was administered correctly by trained personnel. Any deviation from standardized procedures can be grounds to challenge the reliability of the BAC results.
  • Examining the Timeframe of the Test: The timing of the BAC test in relation to the time of driving is crucial. BAC levels can fluctuate, and a test taken too long after the alleged offense may not accurately reflect the BAC at the time of driving. Your attorney can argue that the BAC level could have been below the legal limit while you were operating the vehicle.
  • Evaluating Medical and Dietary Factors: Various medical conditions and dietary factors can affect BAC test results. Conditions such as diabetes or diets like the keto diet can lead to false positives in breathalyzer tests. A knowledgeable attorney will delve into your medical history and dietary habits to determine if these could have influenced the test results.
  • Challenging the Handling and Storage of Samples: How the blood sample was handled and stored in cases involving blood tests can impact its validity. Improper handling, contamination, or sample degradation can lead to inaccurate results. An attorney well-versed in OWI cases will demand a thorough examination of the blood sample’s chain of custody and storage conditions.
  • Use of Expert Witnesses: Employing expert witnesses in fields like toxicology, forensic science, and medical science can be instrumental in undermining the prosecution’s BAC and blood evidence in DUI cases. These experts can testify to the potential flaws in the testing process, the unreliability of certain test results, and the influence of external factors on BAC levels.
  • Legal and Constitutional Challenges: Your attorney can also challenge the BAC evidence on legal and constitutional grounds. This includes questioning the legality of the traffic stop or the sobriety checkpoint, the validity of the officer’s probable cause for administering a BAC test, and ensuring that your constitutional rights were not violated during the process.

In conclusion, while blood evidence might seem conclusive at first glance in DUI cases, there are numerous ways to attack its validity and reliability. A skilled OWI defense attorney will explore these avenues thoroughly, leveraging any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case to your advantage. Remember, a high BAC reading is not the end of your defense; it’s a critical point where skilled legal representation can make a significant difference.

Direct and Collateral Penalties for DUI in Michigan

A DUI conviction in Michigan, known as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), carries a range of direct and indirect consequences and penalties. These can vary based on the specifics of the DUI case, such as the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest, any prior convictions, and whether there was any harm or potential harm to others. Here are the possible consequences:

Direct Penalties for a First-Time OWI Conviction in Michigan:

  1. Jail Time: Up to 93 days in jail.
  2. Fines: Fines ranging from $100 to $500.
  3. Driver’s License Suspension: 30-day suspension followed by restrictions for 150 days.
  4. Community Service: Up to 360 hours of community service.
  5. Points on Driver’s License: 6 points on the driving record.

Direct Penalties for Subsequent OWI Convictions:

  • The penalties increase significantly with second and subsequent DUI offenses based on blood or breath evidence, including longer jail time (possibly up to five (5) years in prison), higher fines, longer license suspension or revocation, vehicle immobilization or forfeiture, and mandatory rehabilitation programs.

Indirect Consequences:

  • Criminal Record: A DUI conviction results in a criminal record, which can impact various aspects of life.
  • Employment Implications: Difficulty in securing employment, as many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with a criminal record. Certain professions, especially those requiring driving, may be directly impacted.
  • Insurance Rates: Significant increase in car insurance premiums, or even difficulty in obtaining insurance. Some insurers classify individuals with DUI convictions as high-risk drivers.
  • Background Checks: A DUI can show up on various background checks, affecting opportunities like housing and education.
  • Educational Opportunities: Limitations in educational opportunities, as some colleges and scholarships may have restrictions against applicants with criminal records.
  • Professional Licenses: Complications in obtaining or retaining professional licenses (e.g., in law, medicine, teaching).
  • Travel Restrictions: Difficulty in traveling to certain countries, like Canada, which has strict entry rules regarding individuals with DUI convictions.
  • Social Stigma: The social stigma associated with a DUI conviction can impact personal relationships and community standing.
  • Financial Strain: Beyond fines, the financial burden of a DUI can include legal fees, costs of alternative transportation during license suspension, and increased insurance rates.
  • Mandatory Substance Abuse Education or Treatment: Depending on the case, there might be a requirement for substance abuse education or treatment programs.

Enhanced Penalties for Aggravating Factors:

  • If there are aggravating factors, such as a high BAC level (usually 0.17% or higher, known as a High BAC or “Super Drunk” offense), causing injury or death, or having a minor in the vehicle, penalties and consequences are more severe. The prosecution will charge someone with DUI super drunk if blood or breath evidence demonstrates the higher BAC level.

It’s important to note that Michigan law may change, and the specifics of an individual case can significantly affect the penalties and consequences. Therefore, consulting a knowledgeable DUI/OWI attorney in Michigan is crucial for anyone facing such charges.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Experienced Michigan OWI defense attorneys

The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are experts in representing people charged with committing felony or misdemeanor crimes, including DUI and OWI cases. Criminal defense work is all we do. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing people charged with drunk driving or other alcohol and drug-related offenses. If you are charged with OWI or any alcohol or drug offense, contact the attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. for their expert representation. If the government has breath or blood evidence in a DUI prosecution, we know every method there is to attack the evidence and challenge its veracity in court.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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