On January 17, The Honorable Paula Patrick of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas affirmed in Commonwealth v. Myers a Philadelphia Municipal Court order suppressing the results of a DUI blood draw by applying the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeely. In McNeely, the Court held that “the natural dissipation of alcohol [from] the bloodstream [does not establish] a per se exigency that suffices on its own to justify an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s search warrant requirement for nonconsensual blood testing in drunk-driving investigations.” Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S.Ct. 1552, 1558 (2013).
In Myers, defendant Darrell Myers was found in the early afternoon repeatedly pressing the brake lights in his parked car with a bottle of brandy near him. Myers was arrested for suspicion of DUI and was transported to Einstein Medical Center where he was administered a dose of Haldol, an antipsychotic, which rendered him unconscious. Twenty minutes later and without Myers’ permission, a police officer requested an RN at the hospital to perform a blood draw, which she did. There is no evidence that any officer ever requested or attempted to secure a warrant or Myers’ consent to the blood draw. Myers then moved to suppress evidence recovered by the blood draw, alleging that the warrantless draw violated his Fourth Amendment rights as interpreted in McNeely.
The Municipal Court found, and the Philadelphia County Court of Common Please affirmed, that the blood draw did in fact violate Myers’ Fourth Amendment rights, therefore rendering the evidence from the blood draw inadmissible. Just as was the case in McNeely, the Commonwealth failed to present any evidence that an exigency existed above and beyond the natural dissipation of alcohol from the bloodstream. Examples of exigencies that could vitiate the need for a warrant include a police officer investigating DUI late at night when it would be more difficult to obtain a warrant or any other situation where it is impossible to obtain a warrant. The takeaway from this case, just as in McNeely, is that a blood draw without consent or a warrant is not a constitutional search unless some other exigency exists that makes it impracticable to obtain a search warrant.
Read more about Pennsylvania DUI law.