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Illinois Courts Interpret McNeely

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Searches and seizures executed without a warrant are presumed unreasonable unless there is an established exception. The Supreme Court has found the act of drawing an individual’s blood (such as in a DUI investigation) to be a form of a seizure requiring a warrant, unless exigent circumstances make obtaining a warrant impractical. Courts evaluate the totality of the circumstances on a case-by-case basis to determine whether exigent circumstances justify a warrantless search. Exigent circumstances have been found to exist where the time needed to obtain a warrant would result in the destruction of evidence.

Last January, the United States Supreme Court decided in Missouri v. McNeely that in DUI investigations, the natural diminution of alcohol in a defendant’s bloodstream does not necessarily constitute an exigent circumstance sufficient to bypass the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. Thus, if a DUI suspect does not consent to a blood test, the police will likely have to obtain a search warrant, issued only upon a showing of probable cause to believe the suspect is under the influence of a detectable drug. The Court noted, however, that the natural dissipation of alcohol may support a finding of exigency in a specific case, where other factors, such as the required procedures for obtaining a warrant and the availability of a judge, may affect the timeframe significantly.

In the past month, Illinois appellate courts have had the opportunity to interpret of McNeely in two cases – People v. Armer and People v. M. Gaede

In Armer, defendant filed a motion to suppress his blood test in a DUI case on the grounds that his blood was drawn without his consent, without a warrant, and absent exigent circumstances. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing and granted the motion to suppress. The State appealed, claiming the court erred in finding no exigency. The appellate court affirmed.

At the evidentiary hearing, the arresting officer testified that he arrived at the accident scene to find a vehicle rolled over in a ditch as well as the defendant, who was apparently drunk and bleeding. An ambulance arrived and took the defendant to the hospital. The officer followed the ambulance and charged defendant with a DUI. The officer read “Warning to Motorist” to defendant, and defendant fell asleep as the warning was being read to him. The officer attempted to wake defendant but failed. After warning the sleeping defendant, the officer requested the hospital to draw defendant’s blood.

At the hearing, the officer acknowledged that the defendant had not given verbal consent for the blood draw, but stated that according to his training, there is implied consent if a suspect does not refuse. The officer admitted that he did not attempt to get a search warrant before taking the blood test.

At the close of the evidence, the trial court held that the officer was not faced with an emergency that justified acting without a warrant, that the defendant did not consent to the blood draw, and that the blood draw violated defendant’s rights under the United States and Illinois Constitutions. The court therefore granted defendant’s motion to suppress and prohibited the state from introducing the results of the blood test during trial.

The appellate court agreed, reasoning that any of the three arresting officers could have attempted to contact the State’s Attorney’s office to secure a warrant, and nothing in the record suggested circumstances that would have prevented one of the officers from obtaining a warrant. Further, the testifying officer never stated that he believed he was faced with an emergency where the time delay would threaten the loss of evidence. “After reviewing the totality of the circumstances in the record before us, we do not find that the arresting officer was faced with exigent circumstances that would justify the drawing of defendant’s blood without a warrant.”

In Gaede, defendant appealed his DUI conviction, arguing Illinois’ implied-consent statute is facially unconstitutional and unconstitutionally punishes individuals who assert their Fourth Amendment right to refuse chemical analysis. After being arrested, taken to jail, and performing poorly on various field sobriety tests, defendant refused to take a chemical breath test. A jury found him guilty of a DUI. The appellate court affirmed defendant’s conviction.

The appeals court found defendant’s two claims to be meritless. Regarding the facial challenge, the court explained that a statute is only facially unconstitutional if it can never be constitutionally applied. Here, because defendant withdrew his consent after the arrest, there was no warrantless, nonconsensual search, meaning his Fourth Amendment rights could not have been violated. Thus, the statute was not facially unconstitutional.

The court found defendant’s second argument that the implied-consent scheme unconstitutionally punished him for exercising his right to refuse chemical analysis to be “built on a false premise.” The court noted there is no constitutional right to refuse a breath test. The court also noted that the divided McNeely opinion makes clear that the majority of Supreme Court justices do not question the constitutionality of the implied-consent statute. Thus, defendant failed to establish that his constitutional rights were violated.

These cases demonstrate that while a nonconsensual blood test requires a warrant, there is no constitutional right to refuse a chemical test.

If you have been charged with a DUI crime in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI, DWI, or drunk driving lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation for those in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses. To learn more and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 217.525.0520.

More Blog Posts:

Medical Marijuana Cards Do Not Exempt Illinois Drivers From DUIs, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, November 3, 2014

DUI on a bicycle? It depends., Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, September 12, 2014

DUI fatality cases in Illinois, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, August 29, 2014

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