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Court Discusses When Results of a Blood Test are Admissible Under the Good Faith Exception to the Fourth Amendment

The United States Constitution grants individuals the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Recently, the United States Supreme Court held this right to include the right to be free from warrantless blood tests, in Birchfield v. North Dakota. The Birchfield ruling did not permanently resolve the issue of whether evidence obtained via a warrantless blood test is admissible, however, as courts throughout the country have carved out exceptions to the rule. This was illustrated in a recent case decided by the Nebraska Supreme Court, in which the court ruled that under the good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment, results from a warrantless blood test could be admitted into evidence. If you live in Illinois and face DUI charges due to a warrantless blood test it is imperative to retain a skilled Illinois DUI attorney to fight to protect your rights.

The Nebraska Case

Reportedly, police were called to the scene of a car accident in the early evening in August 2017. Upon arrival, they observed the defendant slumped over behind the driver’s seat of his vehicle. He was transported to the hospital via ambulance and did not submit to any chemical or field sobriety testing at the scene. One of the officers submitted an affidavit to obtain a search warrant for a blood draw from the defendant, due to the suspicion the defendant was driving under the influence. The county court issued the warrant, after which the police traveled to the hospital. The defendant willingly submitted to a breath test, which showed his BAC to be almost twice the legal limit. He was then served the search warrant, after which his blood was drawn. The defendant’s blood alcohol level was .168. Following his release from the  hospital, he was arrested for driving under the influence.

It is alleged that after the defendant was charged with driving under the influence, he filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained via the search warrant on the grounds that the warrant was invalid. Specifically, the defendant argued that the affidavit in support of the warrant failed to establish probable cause that the defendant was engaging in criminal activity. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the affidavit was sufficient. A trial was held, and the defendant was convicted, after which he appealed. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling, and noted that the good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment applied. The defendant appealed, and the Supreme Court of Nebraska moved the case to its docket.

On review, the Supreme Court of Nebraska held that even if the underlying affidavit was deficient, it was irrelevant, because the good faith exception established by the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Leon, applied. The court stated that there are exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, including the good faith exception, which applies when the police act in objectively reasonable good faith in relying on a search warrant. The court noted that in evaluating whether an officer acted in good faith the court must assess a totality of the circumstances. Additionally, the court stated that an appellate court could determine the issue of whether the good faith exception applies on appeal, regardless of whether it was raised before the trial court. Lastly, the court found that the arresting officers had sufficient evidence of a crime to seek a search warrant, and thus found that the warrant was sought in good faith. As such, the court affirmed the lower court ruling.

Illinois Law Regarding the Good Faith Exception

The Illinois courts have ruled similarly to the Nebraska courts, finding that evidence obtained via a warrantless blood draw will not be excluded if the police acted with the objectively reasonable good faith that their conduct was legal. In assessing whether the exception applies the court will assess whether a reasonably well-trained police officer would have known the search was unlawful under the facts of the case.

Meet with an Experienced Attorney to Discuss Your Charges

If you are an Illinois resident facing DUI charges it is critical to meet with an experienced Illinois DUI attorney to discuss your charges and what defenses you may be able to argue. Attorney Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC will assertively defend you against the charges you face to help you seek to retain your liberties. Mr. Harvatin can be contacted at 217.525.0520 or through the form online to set up a consultation to discuss your charges.